SYDNEY - He's three metres (nine feet) long, weighs as much as a small fishing boat and can eat the combined weight of two small children every day.
But "Dhyum the Dugong," the main character in a new children's book, has pressing issues on his mind. He wants to teach people how to save dugongs, endangered sea mammals, like him.
Dhyum is the creation of Australian scientist Mariana Fuentes, who decided to use a children's picture book to teach children and their parents about protecting dugongs, which some experts say are the source of mermaid tales.
"I think that through reading the book, kids can educate their parents about what they learned. Parents can often listen to their kids more than any researcher or government industry," Fuentes said.
Dugongs are massive sea creatures which are related to manatees and can weigh as much as 500 kilos (1100 pounds). They are found from Madagascar to Vanuatu, and in the wild can live up to 70 years.
Fuentes, a marine biologist at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, spent three years researching dugongs for the book, which explains what they are and the dangers they face.
"Even though we follow cultural protocols, sometimes the whole community doesn't get the message, so I thought it would be a good way through the book," she said.
Dhyum's home is the Torres Strait, a 35,000 square kilometre stretch of water between Australia and Papua New Guinea which is the home of the world's largest population of dugongs.
The book is aimed at 7 and 8-year-olds and uses colourful pictures and a simple narrative to tell the story of Dhyum and his fellow dugongs as they eat, frolic in the ocean and deal with dangers such as pollution, being tangled in fishing nets, and overfishing by some indigenous cultures.