After adopting the dugong as the museum's official mascot last year, the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) in collaboration with ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ), has opened a special exhibit dedicated to this herbivorous marine mammal!
There are seven sections that you can go through slow or fast depending on the time you have. If you're in a hurry, look for the fast route symbol which will point you to the most important details about the dugong and its habitat.
According to Qatar Museums, the Arabian Gulf hosts the world's second largest dugong population, and scientists in Qatar, have recorded the largest dugong gathering, which was a herd of 840 dugongs.
Scroll down to read some of the things you can expect from this fun and interactive exhibit!
Native to Qatar, dugongs are the only herbivorous marine mammals. They belong to the family Sirenia and closely related to the manatee. Dugongs depend on coastal seagrass beds for both food and shelter.
They have been living in the coastal waters of Qatar's peninsula for more than 7,500 years. The exhibit will greet you with a life-sized dugong replica and a skeleton of a dugong that was found stranded in Al Khor that was donated to the museum by Sheikh Ibrahim Al Muraikhi.
In the first part of the exhibit, you'll learn what is a dugong and all about its anatomical features and what senses do they use to navigate their environment. You can also find out how a dugong is similar and different from manatees and elephants. Did you know that they can grow to more than three meters long and weigh up to 550 kg? Amazing, right?!
Feel free to touch the exhibits, play, and experiment like a scientist. But don't forget to sanitize after each activity (or wear gloves), wear a mask, and keep safe physical distancing! Hand sanitizers are available in each section and the exhibit is regularly disinfected.
In the "Dugongs in Qatar: then and now" section, step inside the LED screen and watch the video as it tells you all about the history of dugongs in the country - where they existed and where they can be found in Qatar today.
You and your family can also step on a giant scale to find out how many people it takes to fill up the weight of a dugong. You can guess a dugong's age based on the tusks exhibited which are on loan from ExxonMobil Research Qatar.
Dugong calves share an intimate bond with their mothers until they're mature enough to be on their own. Kids can play with their parents to experience this bond in the "Stay Close" game to help the mother and calf get to the seagrass.
Find out how much seagrass a dugong eats in a day in the "Observing Dugongs' Behavior" section where you can also play the "Feed the Dugong" game to learn about its eating habits and the three types of seagrass in Qatar.
In the Seagrass Meadow section, you can enjoy a video presentation on dugongs in Qatar by Qatar Television as well as a video feature by the National Museum of Qatar about the calf who was separated from its mother.
Play "Avoid the boats" game or bring your plastic bottles for recycling in the section where you learn about what are the threats to dugongs and their environment - fishing nets, boat strikes, and plastic pollution.
There's a special section in the exhibition where you can sit and listen to stories from people who supported the project. You'll find out how important dugongs were to the people of Qatar in the past and how they're a part of everyday lives through stories, anecdotes, and legends.
There's a story about a dugong at Umm Bab area by Benno Boer, the baby dugong CT scan as told by Dr. Tatiana Vinardell from the Equine Veterinary Medical Center, the Miocene Dugong Graveyard in Qatar as told by Jacques LeBlanq, the Dugong Research at EMRQ in Qatar, dugong fossils in Qatar, dugong at the old National Museum, Choy Salonga's thought process on creating the Dugong Mascot for the National Museum of Qatar design competition, and more.
At the Science Lab, you can find out about the important work of scientists studying dugongs in Qatar and what are the career paths that people can take to make a difference in terms of helping the dugong population and the environment.
But you don't have to be a scientist to help, like Jose from DEAP Qatar who organizes beach cleanups, in which H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa participates, and Qatari fashion label Wit Noiz that created the “Bag-it Abaya” that H.E. Sheikha Al Mayassa wore during the inaugural tour of the exhibition with H.E. Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani. The abaya was made from 327 single-use plastic bags collected and upcycled from cleanups on the outskirts of Doha.
At the end of the exhibition, you can vote for your favorite part of the exhibit by using a recycled bottle cap. There’s also a station where visitors can pledge on how to protect the environment, take a quiz, and a community wall wherein esteemed community members show the project they’re doing like DEAP, Girl Scouts, UNESCO, MME, and more.
The exhibition is part of the Qatar-USA 2021 Year of Culture and NMoQ has also collaborated with Qatar University, UNESCO Doha Office, Texas A&M at Galveston, and the Ministry of Municipality and Environment in the lead-up to the exhibition.
Have you seen a dugong or visited the National Museum of Qatar? Let us know in the comments and don't forget to share this with your family and friends!
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