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Scientists discover rare wild cat in Fujairah wadi

posted on 25/11/2009: 1359 views

A never-before-seen wild cat has been captured on film by ecologists working in the protected zone of Wadi Wurayah on the East Coast.

Camera traps set up in the mountainous area of Fujairah have captured an image of a rare breed of wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica) whose presence was, until now, just assumed thanks to some elusive tracks.

The species is threatened by genetic pollution with escaped domestic cats to a point that scientists believe the UAE population of wild cats might not be pure any more. The competition for food and the introduction of diseases by feral cats, the maltreatment of carnivores by trapping and poisoning, and the destruction of natural habitats have had an impact on the survival of this species in the wild.

Wadi Wurayah is a 129-kilometre-square area that was officially declared the UAE's first protected mountain area by His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Mohammad Al Sharqi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Fujairah in March 2009.

Studies conducted over the last three years in the wadi have revealed the presence of 12 species of mammals, 73 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles and amphibians, one species of wadi fish and 74 invertebrate families, of which 11 species are new to science.

Plant species

More than 300 species of plants have been recorded in the area, including species that are found only in wetlands such as Typha dominginsis and the unique orchid species of the UAE, Epipactis veratrifolia.

Due to its permanent water resource the area has been used by local communities for thousands of years and is home to rare and endangered species such as the Arabian Tahr and Arabian Leopard. The wadi is located within Ecoregion 127: "Arabian highlands and shrublands", one of the WWF Global 200 ecoregions regrouping the richest, rarest and most distinctive of the earth's natural habitats.

Protection needed

The discovery of the wild cat demonstrates the high ecological value of the area to the ongoing preservation of the UAE and Middle East's wildlife.

"The discovery underpins the importance of protecting the Wadi Wurayah area. We have not seen a wild cat for many years and it is vital that we do our utmost to protect the area, allowing the wildlife residing there to flourish," said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Director of Emirates Wildlife Society-World Wildlife Fund for Nature. – Gulf News


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