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Arabian Tahr (Hemitragus jayakari )

Photofile Archive

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 the sparse grass and shrubs growing amongst the rocks. They descend regularly into the wadis to find a pool from which to drink. The tahr's existence on top of Jebel Hafit near Al Ain had been mentioned by Wilfred Thesiger some 45 years ago. After a last carcass of a tahr was found near a water pool on this mountain in 1982 and no further evidence of this secretive animal came to light from either Jebel Hafit or any of the other mountains, it was generally thought that the tahr was extinct outside the Sultanate of Oman. However, reports received from local people living in the mountains indicated that an animal different from a gazelle was being seen from time to time in various areas in the northern Emirates. Then, in 1995, during a survey conducted by T. and C. Stuart on behalf of the Arabian Leopard Trust a female tahr, together with her kid, was photographed when both animals descended to drink at one of the water pools!

Tahr have long reddish-brown hair, with a dark stripe down their back and short, goat-like, stubby horns. Older males sport a beard, which is absent in the younger animals. The calves are grey in colour at birth, changing to greyish-brown around the same time when the horns start to grow. No doubt the
Arabian leopard was the tahr's natural enemy, but today it is the destruction of their natural habitat by feral goats, as well as poaching, that keep their numbers dangerously low.