When dugongs were mercilessly hunted for bacon, steaks and a miracle cure

Posted September 16, 2018 04:54:52

Photo: Dugongs are a protected and vulnerable species, but they used to be hunted. (Flickr: Julien Willem)

The vulnerable and endangered dugong is a protected species, but once upon a time hunters killed the marine animal for its oil and meat with Queensland at the centre of the trade.

In the 1800s hunters slaughtered dugongs in their thousands, developing an industry that saw merchants selling dugong oil as a miracle cure for an array of ailments.

James Cook University archaeology student Timothy Russell said it wasn’t just the oil that made dugongs a valuable commodity.

“They would sell just about all of it,” Mr Russell said.

“The skin would be used for brakes on carriages and the meat was sold for steaks and bacon.”

A commercial industry is born

Mr Russell said it was a chance find on an online archives database that spawned his interest in researching the little-known industry.

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