In the lead up to the Seagrass Tales, Dugongs Trails exhibition, the National Museum of Qatar (NMoQ) has collaborated with ExxonMobil Research Qatar (EMRQ), Qatar University, the UNESCO Office for the Arab States of the Gulf and Yemen, Texas A&M at Galveston, and Ministry of Municipality and Environment to conduct research and a series of workshops on the dugong – a sea mammal native to Qatar’s waters. Creating a Content Experts Committee, the collaborating organizations conducted a series of workshops and collated key information that will be featured in the exhibition which will open later this month at NMOQ
The committee evaluated current research on the marine environment, with a specific focus on the dugong, to assess the key themes that will be presented during the exhibition.
Seagrass Tales, Dugongs Trails, open from the 30th March to 15th July 2021, in collaboration with EMRQ, aims to introduce dugongs to the public and present them as an important part of the Qatari Marine ecosystem and raise awareness on how to protect and preserve their environment.
In Qatar, fossils of dugongs dating back to the Miocene period (23 to 5 million years ago) were found in an area spanning from south Al-Kharayej to Al Eraiq. The dugong has inhabited Qatari waters for more than 7,500 years where herds of between 600 to 700 dugongs can be found – the biggest herds ever recorded in the world. After Australia, the Arabian Gulf is home to the world’s second-largest population of large, long-living, grass-eating sea creatures. Dugongs face extinction due to fishing activities, vessel strikes, and environmental pollution.
The joint research efforts by the collaborating entities have focused specifically on the Arabian Gulf dugong and the conservation initiatives to protect their habitat. The sea mammal tends to remain solitary or in small groups, usually a mother and a calf, but have been seen in large herds during breeding. However, in the Arabian Gulf, dugongs tend to gather in larger groups. The first largest single dugong group ever recorded in the world – 674 individuals – was observed between Qatar and Bahrain in 1986. Later in 2020, another but larger group of 840 dugongs was recorded.
Since 2014, EMRQ and its partners have been collecting dugong samples mainly from the west coast of Qatar and studying these fascinating and vulnerable marine mammals. Through the research, scientists aim to obtain greater insights into why the usually solitary sea mammal can be found in large gatherings in the Arabian.
In addition, scientists are also studying pollutants and their impact on seagrass and marine waters, which form part of the dugong’s natural habitat.
Lina Patmali, Exhibitions Researcher, NMoQ, said: “In preparation for Seagrass Tales, Dugongs Trails, NMoQ has worked closely with the scientists as well as the local community to promote the study of these sea mammals that form a special part of Qatar’s natural history. Scientific research is vital to protecting dugongs and their habitat. However, as individuals and a collective, we can also adjust our daily habits to preserve their habitat.
“We are grateful that we were able to collaborate with these entities and their scientists and contribute their work, even in a small way. The exhibition was shaped by their expertise and their experience. We hope that this collaboration will not only advance the study of dugongs but also raise awareness and even engage the future generations in scientific research and sustainable practices.”
Seagrass Tales, Dugong Trails is a natural history exhibition that will shed light on the dugong through a scientific and environmental lens and will showcase their ancestry, habits, habitat, the threats they face, and how science is vital to their protection from extinction.
For more information, please visit www.nmoq.org.qa
Source and cover image: press release
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