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Nguva: The Forgotten Mermaid

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The dugong, the animal that is believed to have spawned the famous legend of the mermaid, is now the most endangered mammal in East Africa. In this documentary, Daniel Prior, a young filmmaker, travels with two close friends to the remote and beautiful Lamu archipelago, the tip of Kenya's most northern coast, where they embark on a funny yet moving adventure as they try to find one of the last few remaining 'mermaids'.

The dugong is a creature whose past is steeped in mythology and legend. It is a gentle giant of the indo-pacific, the only herbivorous mammal to swim the oceans. Female dugongs are the origin of this unique creature’s legendary status, for at the base of their flippers they have highly developed teats, said to resemble human breasts. This anatomical detail has ensured that the dugong has become a mysterious lady of the ocean, a hybrid fantasy of woman and sea creature. The dugong is undoubtedly the source of a phenomenon that has captured the imaginations of men continents apart – the legend of the mermaid.

A recent WWF survey reported that over the last 40 years, dugong population levels have fallen by 96% worldwide. One of the regions where the dugong is most endangered is in the seas that stretch along the Eastern Coast of Africa, from Zanzibar up to the Sinai. The last reported sighting of the dugong in Kenya was by a fisherman in the Lamu Archipelago, off of the most Northern point of the coastline.

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