Marine experts and veterinarians are taking care of a baby dugong, who has been separated from its mother and got lost in the ocean off southern Thailand.

The female dugong named Marium, is estimated to be five months old. She was spotted alone near a beach on Ko Poda island in Krabi province in April. Officials tried to release her into a dugong habitat, but it swam away.

Volunteers and veterinarians located Marium again near the dugong habitat off Ko Libong island. Her caretakers said Marium does not swim with the herd and comes straight to them, which goes to show she had grown fond of the humans.

In this May 23, 2019 photo, officials of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources feed milk to Marium on Libong island, Trang province, southern Thailand. AP

Marium often follows her caretakers into shallow water, where she will be fed milk and sea grass for up to 15 times a day, while veterinarians also check her health.

Her caretakers added that the young dugong is drawn to the shape of the underside of canoes, which she might see as her mother substitute.

“She’s attached and tries to swim and cling to the boat as if it was her mother and when we are swimming she would come and tuck under our arms. It’s almost like the way she would tuck under her mother,” Nantarika Chansue, director of the Aquatic Animal Research Center of Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Veterinarian Science, who also advises Marium’s caretaker. “So I think it’s not only humans but anything that looks like another dugong that she would be attached to.”

The vets said it would take at least another year until Marium can be weaned off bottled milk. It takes around 18 months for dugongs to be stopped being fed with milk. Meanwhile, it takes about eight years for young dugongs to be under their mothers’ care.

They added that Marium must also be trained to detach herself from humans, but for now, though the International Union for the Conservation of Nature list them as vulnerable species, her survival is more important.

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