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Wildlife




Camel calf feeding on its mother's milk

Perhaps the most famous animal of the Middle East and North- Africa: the one-humped camel or dromedary (Camelus dromedarius). Males are 1.8–2 m (5.9–6.6 ft) tall and females are 1.7–1.9 m tall. Males range from 400–600 kg, while females weigh 300–540 kg. They vary in colour from a light beige to dark brown. The notable hump is composed of fat bound together by fibrous tissue. The diet of the camel mostly consists of foliage, dry grasses, and available desert vegetation, mostly thorny plants which their extremely tough mouths allow them to eat. The camels are active in the day, and rest together in groups. Led by a dominant male, each herd consists of about 20 animals. Dromedaries show no signs of territoriality. Mating usually occurs in winter, often overlapping the rainy season. One calf is born after the gestational period of 15 months, and is nurtured for about two years. Predators in the wild include wolves and lions.

They have various adaptations to help them exist in their desert habitat. Dromedaries have bushy eyebrows and two rows of long eyelashes to protect their eyes, and can close their nostrils to face sandstorms. Their ears are also lined with protective hair. When water-deprived, they can fluctuate their body temperature by 6 °C, changing from a morning minimum of 34° to a maximum of 40° or so in the afternoon. This reduces heat flow from the environment to the body and thereby water loss through perspiration is minimised. They have specialized kidneys, which make them able to tolerate water loss of more than 30% of their body mass (a loss of 15% would prove fatal in most other animals).

Today, almost 13 million dromedaries are domesticated. They provide milk and meat for food. They are beneficial as beasts of burden, and their docility and toughness compared to cattle are additional advantages. Their hair is a highly regarded source material for woven goods and their dung is used as fertiliser and fuel. See: dromedary




A herd of camels in the Jebel Qurma region



 

Common ostrich male and females in Etosha National Park (Namibia)

The ostrich – a bird that was once very common in the Jebel Qurma region andthe northeastern desert at large. It is depicted at many petroglyphs of the Safaitic period (firstcentury BC till the fourth century AD). We also found fragments of ostrich egg shell at many of the sites which we surveyed in the Jebel Qurma area.

The ostrich is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and can run at up to about 70 km/h (43 mph). The ostrich's diet consists mainly of plant matter, though it also eats invertebrates. It lives in groups of 5 to 50 birds. When threatened, the ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground, or run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick of its powerful legs. (See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostrich)

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A herd of oryx in the Azraq Wetland Reserve. Photo:http://www.facebook.com/azraqwetlandreserve

The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is a large antelope species native to the Arabian Peninsula. Their fur is pale with contrasting dark markings in the face and on the legs.  Both males and females possess long, permanent horns which are almost straight. The horns are lethal — the oryx has been known to kill lions with them. The oryx  prefers near-desert conditions and can survive without water for long periods. They live in herds of up to 600 animals. Newborn calves are able to run with the herd immediately after birth. The Arabian oryx became extinct in the wild in 1972 from the Arabian Peninsula but was saved through a captive breeding program and reintroduction to the wild in Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In Jordan, the oryx is saved in preserves such as the great Azraq Wetland Reserve, some 30 km to the west of the Jebel Qurma region.



 

The gazelle is another antilope which once was present in massive numbers in Arabia, including the Jebel Qurma region. Now they have largely disappeared, mainly due to excessive hunting and poaching (see: gazelle hunting).

 

 




 

 


The Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana) is a desert-dwelling goat species found in rough dry mountainous areas of Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Yemen, and Sudan. Nubian ibexes stand around 65–75 cm tall at the shoulder and weigh around 50 kilograms. They are a light tan color, with a white underbelly, in males there is also a dark brown stripe down the back. Nubian ibexes have long thin horns which extend up and then backwards and down. In males these reach around a metre in length, while in females they are much smaller (around 30 cm). The animals eat mainly grasses and leaves and are preyed upon by wolfs and lions. Nubian ibexes live in herds composed solely of males or females.

Excessive hunting of the ibex in the past led to its extinction in Jordan and other countries in the region. In 1989, the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) launched a project to reintroduce the Nubian ibex in Jordan within a 10-square-kilometres area in the Mujib Nature Reserve. The project was a success, and the ibex population currently stands at 600-700 heads. The many rock carvings from the Jebel Qurma region make it clear that the ibex must once have been a very common animal in the northeastern desert.

 






 

Standing approximately 65 cm shoulder height and weighing an average of 20 kg, the Arabian wolf is the smallest wolf subspecies, and it has adapted to live in very harsh desert conditions. To escape the heat, the wolf will dig deep dens and rest in the shade. To ensure it finds enough to eat, the Arabian wolf usually lives a solitary life except during breeding season or when food is readily found. Even then, they live only in pairs or small packs of 3-4 wolves. Its prey is anything from small birds, rodents, reptiles and hares to larger animals like gazelles and ibexes. The Arabian wolf was once found throughout the Arabian Peninsula, but now only lives in small pockets in Southern Israel, Southern and western Iraq, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and some parts of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.





 

 

The striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is native to the Middle East, although in ever-declining numbers. It is the smallest hyena species, with an average adult weight of about 35 kg and a shoulder height between 60–80 cm. The base colour of Arabian hyenas is grey to whitish grey, with an accentuated blackish dorsal mane. The striped hyena is primarily a scavenger which feeds mainly on carcasses in different stages of decomposition, though large specimens have been known to kill their own prey. A nocturnal animal, the striped hyena typically only emerges in complete darkness, and is quick to return to its lair before sunrise. It is a monogamous animal, with both males and females assisting one another in raising their cubs. They typically live in groups of 1–2 animals, though groups of up to seven animals are known in Libya. They are generally not territorial animals, with home ranges of different groups often overlapping each other. The striped hyena may dig its own dens, but it also establishes its lairs in caves, rock fissures, erosion channels and burrows formerly occupied by, for example, wolves. Hyena dens can be identified by the presence of bones at their entrances.