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Wildlife

Dugongs

The world’s second largest population of dugongs live in Qatar, with herds of 600-700 dugongs recorded in Qatar’s waters just recently. Dugongs may live in the sea, but they are not really fish. They are marine mammals, and it’s believed they made their first appearance in the waters of the Arabia Gulf approximately 7,500 years ago.

The world’s second largest population of dugongs live in Qatar, with herds of 600-700 dugongs recorded in Qatar’s waters just recently. Dugongs may live in the sea, but they are not really fish. They are marine mammals, and it’s believed they made their first appearance in the waters of the Arabia Gulf approximately 7,500 years ago.

Dugongs are grey in colour and may grow up to over 300 feet in length with an average body weight of 550 kg. They have flippers that look like paddles and a horizontal tail that is called a fluke, so they can easily move around in the water. They have a bristled snout and strong upper lips so they can easily uproot the entire seagrass plant to eat. Dugongs have small eyes, so their vision is limited, but their hearing is sharp and they can communicate using chirps and squeaks that travel through water. Their life expectancy, on average, is 70 years.

The dugongs of Qatar

Although classified as a mammal, dugongs are herbivores and live on seagrass with eating being their main source of activity. On average, they consume about 40kg of seagrass on a daily basis which is found in the clear, shallow and warm waters of the Arabian Gulf.

Dugongs are shy and move around a semi-nomadic life with their mothers as calves and alone as adults. However, they have been spotted in larger herds in the north-western area of Qatar. They fear humans and will turn away if they feel threatened. 

Dugongs play a huge part in the ecosystem around Qatar. Careful research is being done to ensure they don’t go extinct because they are listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

Animal facts

  • Lifespan

    70 years

  • Diet

    Herbivorous; sea grass

  • Average length

    2.6 m

  • Average weight

    550 kg

  • Speed

    10 km/h

  • Conservation status

    Vulnerable

Dugongs have a special standing in Qatari society and the National Museum of Qatar has adopted the dugong as its mascot.

The dugongs of Qatar

Spotting Qatar's happy mammal, Dugongs in the waters of Qatar indeed is an experience of a lifetime. 

Jonita Jean Traveller

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