Baby Dugong Gives Huge Hug To The People Who Saved Her

"She's attached."

A baby animal found all alone on a beach has stolen the hearts of so many people since her rescue in Thailand.

Rescued baby dugong hugging rescuer
AFP/Getty Images

Mariam is a little dugong — a kind of marine mammal related to a manatee — and she has been snuggling up to her rescuers ever since she was saved earlier this year. 

Rescuing baby dugong in Thailand
YouTube/Dmcr Thailand

Mariam — who is just 5 months old and had become separated somehow from her mother — practices swimming in river water with her caretakers near the dugong habitat just off Ko Libong island, getting bottle-fed special milk and munching on the seagrass offered to her by her human companions.

Baby dugong Mariam with rescuers in Thailand
YouTube/Dmcr Thailand

Mariam will continue getting help from people for the next year or so — baby dugongs normally receive their mom's milk for their first 18 months of life — until she's ready to go out into the wild on her own. 

“She’s attached," Nantarika Chansue, director of the Aquatic Animal Research Center at Chulalongkorn University, told AP.

Baby dugong Mariam with rescuers in Thailand
YouTube/Dmcr Thailand

"[She] 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," Chansue said. "It’s almost like the way she would tuck under her mother." 

Baby dugong snuggling rescuer
YouTube/Dmcr Thailand

Dugongs are considered vulnerable because of pollution and climate change, as well as threats from fishing boats and nets. Thankfully, Mariam has landed in very good hands. 

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As Mariam becomes older, it will be important for her to let go of her human caretakers — but for now, comforting her and making sure she's happy and healthy is the first priority.

You can help protect dugongs and other marine mammals from pollution and habitat loss by making a donation to Oceana.