The ancestors of today's dugongs have lived off the shores of the country we now know as Qatar for up to 23 million years. They have become part of the country’s natural history and culture. However, despite being sighted in record numbers around Qatar during 2020, globally they are at risk – and much of that risk comes from human activity. Research has shown that dugongs are commonly being killed as a result of ‘bycatch’ – which means accidentally getting caught in fishing nets.
In conjunction with the special exhibition Seagrass Tales, Dugong Trails, we spoke to Ismail Mahmoud Alshaikh, a technical research coordinator at ExxonMobil Research Qatar, to find out more about this gentle giant – and learn what we must do to ensure its survival.