About the sculpture :
The Dugong sculpture, located in Umm Al Emarat Park, was gifted by HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, on the occasion of Mother’s Day. The sculptures, dubbed The Jewels of Abu Dhabi showcase Abu Dhabi’s rich natural heritage.
About the artist :
Gill Parker is a leader in the field of equine and wildlife sculptures, with many major commissions to her name. Her sculptures are eagerly sought by art collectors around the world and are in many public, private and royal collections. Gill was commissioned by EAD to create some of Abu Dhabi’s iconic species; the Hawksbill Turtle, Arabian Oryx, Dugong, Saker Falcon and Greater Flamingo sculptures. In doing so, she worked with and mentored a UAE artist, Azza Al Qubaisi, so that she may explore new techniques and bring these to her works in the UAE.
About the species :
The Dugong (Dugong dugon), the only marine herbivore, is a grey-brown animal that has a powerful fluked tail and small front flippers, which act like paddles to stabilise it when it swims. The forelimbs are also used for scratching, mouth-cleaning and supporting the body when resting. Their movement is often slow and graceful. An air-breathing mammal totally adapted to life at sea; it spends much of its time grazing on the seagrass, giving it the name sea cow.
Fun Facts :
1. Dugongs are more closely related to elephants than to marine mammals such as whales and dolphins.
2. They are often referred to as “sea cows” because they feed almost exclusively on seagrass.
3. Dugongs sometimes breathe by "standing" on their tail with their heads above water.
4. A Dugong can weigh anywhere from 230 to 500 kg and can live up to 70 years
Dugongs are located in Australia, the Arabian Gulf and parts of the Red Sea, northern and eastern coast of East Africa, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands.
Australia has the largest population of Dugongs, followed by the UAE.
Dugongs are shy, secretive animals and very difficult to approach. They have poor eyesight, but their hearing is sharp enabling them to hear well, both on the surface and underwater. Although capable of staying submerged for 6 minutes or more, dugongs must surface regularly albeit for only a couple of seconds.
When frightened they make a whistling sound and calves have a bleat-like cry. Calves leave the herd during the day to form nurseries in shallow water.
Dugongs can live for about seventy years. They breed very slowly at an age between ten and seventeen. The length of gestation is presumed to be about 12-14 months. They give birth in shallow water, and newborn calves can swim immediately to the surface for their first breath of air. Newborns cling to the mother's back and ride from the surface to grass beds along with the feeding mother. The young suckle underwater beneath the mother in an inverted position. Calves remain with their mother for a year. Dugongs have a slow reproductive rate. A female will raise only one calf every three to five years.
Feeding is the principal activity of Dugongs and typically occurs underwater 1-5 m deep. Wear on their tusks and trails through grass beds suggest that some digging or rooting is part of the feeding behaviour. The Dugong mainly feeds on seagrass.
The Dugongs' life history and dependence on seagrass make them vulnerable to many human threats.
Over the past 14 years, EAD has investigated 139 Dugong mortalities. By far the number one cause of death is suffocation from entanglement in unauthorised and abandoned fishing nets. Other reasons may include; habitat loss, marine pollution, boat collisions, and hunting.
Dugongs are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. All populations are in CITES (Convention on the International Treaty of Endangered Species). In the UAE, Dugongs are protected by Federal Law No. 23 and 24 (1999) from exploitation in any form.
EAD protects a population of approximately 3,000 Dugongs, mostly in the waters around Bu Tinah Island, part of the Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve; this is densest Dugong population on the planet.
UAE is signatory to the United Nations Environmental Programme - Convention on Migratory Species Dugong Conservation Memorandum of Understanding and has joined dugong range states to protect dugongs and their habitats globally, regionally and locally. EAD hosts the office of CMS (Convention on Migratory species) at its headquarters in Abu Dhabi.
For over 20 years, EAD has been undertaking research and conservations efforts to preserve our marine species and their habitats:
To know more about EAD’s Marine Conservation efforts click here
To know more about our Marine Protected Areas, click here.