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Subsidient: Melissa Onwezen/Wageningen University
Subsidie: S173.610

Over the last century, the dugong population has declined due to the loss of habitat, changes in fishing techniques and illegal exploitation. Besides the intrinsic value of this flagship species, dugongs are important to sustain the seagrass meadows in coastal ecosystems. Conservation work on coastal ecosystems can be performed with more financial resources and community participation. An innovative idea, following the current eco-tourism trend, is het business model ‘dugong watching’. This could provide better livelihoods for local communities, could stimulate nature protection and can educate people about the value of coastal ecosystems. However, unsustainable tourism should be prevented. The aim of the study was to obtain knowledge about the ecological boundaries (disturbance and habitat requirements) and determine threats for dugongs in the Philippines. Besides this research analysed the feasibility of the ‘dugong watching’ business model. Concluding, ‘dugong watching’ was an unsustainable practice with low business feasibility, due to low predicted profits. However, to provide local community with an alternative livelihood and creating appreciation for nature other eco-tourism concepts were explored together with experts and the community.