Workers feed milk to Marium, a baby dugong separated from her mother in southern Thailand. (AP)

Workers feed milk to Marium, a baby dugong separated from her mother in southern Thailand. (AP)

An official with Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources holds Marium. The baby dugong has learned to like humans. (AP)

An official with Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources holds Marium. The baby dugong has learned to like humans. (AP)

The baby dugong is seen sharing a hug with her caretakers. (AP)

The baby dugong is seen sharing a hug with her caretakers. (AP)

Marium even seems to want to hug a boat! Officials hope she can one day fend for herself in the wild. (AP)

Marium even seems to want to hug a boat! Officials hope she can one day fend for herself in the wild. (AP)

An adult dugong swims after small, colorful fish. (123RF)

An adult dugong swims after small, colorful fish. (123RF)

Hugs from Marium

Posted: September 3, 2019

Marium wanted hugs.

Marium was a baby dugong. She lived in Thailand. People followed her story. Photos of marine biologists hugging her spread across social media. She became famous!

Sadly, Marium died in mid-August. But her story was an opportunity for people to learn about one of God’s wonderful creatures.

Dugongs are sea animals. They’re a lot like American manatees. Both animals have a common relative: elephants! Dugongs can grow to about 11 feet in length. They live as long as 70 years.

People spotted Marium alone near a beach in Thailand in April. She was just a few months old and had been separated from her mother. Officials tried to release her to live with other dugongs. Apparently Marium didn’t want to stay with them. She swam away!

Veterinarians and volunteers set out each day in canoes to find Marium. She swam near a dugong habitat off another island. But she did not stay with the herd. She usually came straight to the people. Then she followed them into shallower water. They checked her health. Up to 15 times a day, they fed her milk and sea grass. That’s similar to what she would have eaten in the wild. (Dugongs are gigantic vegetarians.)

The scientists believe Marium had formed a bond with humans. But she also really liked canoes. She tried to cling to the boats as if they were her mother. When the scientists swam near her, she tucked under their arms in the same way.

Crowds of people watched Marium’s feedings from the seashore. Veterinarians expected to continue looking after Marium for at least another year. By then, she would have been weaned off bottled milk.

Dugongs normally spend around eight years under their mothers’ care. Marium would have needed to be trained later to detach herself from humans.

Baby animals and baby humans know they need to be cared for. They want to be! Did you know it also pleases God when we want the loving care He offers instead of going our own way and acting like we don’t need Him?

Under His wings you will find refuge. — Psalm 91:4