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Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in France
The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx), which once roamed the entire Arabian Peninsula, became extinct as a wild species in the early 1960s. Its precise natural range within the UAE is not clear but they were probably found in and around the Liwa, as well as on the mountain plains.
Remarkable success has been achieved in the UAE with captive breeding of Arabian oryx since a few animals were taken from the last remaining wild herd at the instruction of Sheikh Zayed in the early 1960s. While once the species was on the brink of extinction, its future is now assured. There are reputed to be somewhere between 3500 and 4000 individual oryx, comprising several separate herds, in UAE collections. The first step in a large-scale plan to release 100 oryx into the wild took place in early 2007.
Sand gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa marica), with a maximum weight 22 kilogrammes is the second largest of the antelopes that occur in the UAE. Virtually extinct in the wild, there are occasional reports from the Liwa of small groups of these beautiful creatures.
Arabian Mountain Gazelle
The Arabian mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella cora) is found on the gravel plains, the sand deserts and in the mountains, its natural range extending right across the Emirates, except for the very soft sandy areas of the Liwa into which only the sand gazelle would venture. The mountain gazelle, weighing only 10 to 14 kilogrammes, has a delicate body, and can reach speeds of 65 kilometres per hour if it needs to escape danger.
In contrast to the mountain gazelle the Arabian tahr (Hemitragus jayakari) needs to drink water every day. An agile climber, this animal is found only in the mountains, where it dwells on steep cliffs, feeding on sparse grass and shrubs growing amongst the rocks. Tahr descend regularly into the wadis to find a pool from which to drink.
Unfortunately the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) is also on the brink of extinction in the wild. At about 30 kilogrammes for the male and around 20 kilogrammes for the female, the Arabian leopard is much smaller than most of the African and Asian races.
Absent from the mountains but otherwise widespread in the UAE is the hare (Lepus capensis). Adapted to the harsh environment, the local hare is much smaller than its European counterpart and is therefore often mistaken for a rabbit, which does not occur in Arabia.
The spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastix microlepis) or dhub can grow to a length of 65 centimetres and usually lives in loose colonies, each burrow being approximately 20 to 50 metres distance from its neighbour.
The Arabian Gulf coast and the East Coast area bordering the Gulf of Oman are home to important coral reef and mangrove communities, internationally significant island seabird colonies, and large numbers of migratory waterbirds. The coasts also provide a nesting and feeding ground for turtles, as well as feeding areas for dugongs, whales and dolphins.
Few animals can tolerate the extreme heat of the desert for long so they are obliged to adopt one of a number of strategies. For many this involves burrowing, spending long periods resting in holes well below the surface, whilst others such as the sand skink and the sand boa move rapidly beneath the surface of loose sand. A high proportion of species are nocturnal, coming out only at night when it is cooler, and some aestivate, i.e. spend the summer months underground in a condition of torpor similar to hibernation. As a result, it is often difficult to see wildlife, nevertheless it is there!
Populations of mountain predators such as the Arabian leopard, the caracal lynx, the Arabian wolf and the striped hyena have all been decimated, to the point of extinction in the case of the wolf and hyena. Wild mammalian herbivores such as ibex, wild goat, mountain gazelle, Arabian tahr and rock hyrax also suffered. Today only a few leopard and the notoriously elusive tahr survive.
Protection of the UAE’s natural environment, both on land and offshore, has long been a major focus of government activity, with the first domestic laws to regulate hunting and to protect wildlife having been passed nearly 30 years ago.
Download the UAE’s first State of the Environment Report from www.soe.ae
The UAE is a party to international conventions on: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, and has signed the Law of the Sea Convention.
Umm al-Qaiwain Emirate