by Michael P.T. Gillett
(This article appeared in the April 1994 ENHG Al Ain Newsletter)
A Call for More Records
The setting up last year of the Arabian Leopard Trust together with one of
our recent meetings has begun to focus our attention on some of the more elusive
and exotic Arabian mammals. Of course, this is very proper and efforts to survey
and protect the much endangered Arabian felines, including the caracal lynx (Caracal
caracal schmitzi), leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) and
Gordon’s cat (Felis sylvestris gordoni), deserve both our
admiration and our full support. Nevertheless, if one is realistic, very few of
us are likely to come face-to-face with a caracal or a nimr, no matter how many
trips are made to the mountains. Much nearer to home, however, there is a mammal
that we are likely to encounter right here in Al Ain and for which your records
would be most welcome. I refer to the hedgehog, or rather to the hedgehogs since
I have evidence from the existence of two species in the Al Ain/Al Buraimi area.
They are the Ethiopian hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus dorsalis)
and Brandt’s hedgehog (paraechinus hypomelas niger).
ENHG records have in the past been mainly for the Ethiopian hedgehog, which
is thought to be common in the UAE. In contrast, Brandt’s hedgehog has been
considered to be very rare in the country, but over the last two years there has
been a small flurry of records of this animal, most of them coming from Al Ain.
Although these records include some of road causalities, the majority are of
live animals, which is in happy contrast to the disturbing news about the large
cats. I have records of live hedgehogs from the Al Jimi and Al Markhaniya
districts of Al Ain, the last one being seen in early February at night on the
grassy area near to the Prisunic supermarket. Others have also been seen alive
in Al Ain and one was taken alive to the Chouiefat School I have also seen
traffic victims near Ain Al Faydah and outside the Prisunic supermarket.
These records suggest that Brandt’s hedgehog is a common urban animal in
the Al Ain region and it would be nice to confirm this by receiving any records
and photographs that you might have of both live and dead hedgehogs. I have
received unconfirmed reports of hedgehogs in the grounds of Tawam Hospital and
it would be nice to substantiate these and determine whether or not they refer
to Brandt’s species. My only record of the Ethiopian hedgehog in this area is
of a road casualty on the Al Buraimi – Al Mahdah road near to "Fossil
Valley", so it is quite possible that both species may occur in the gardens
and waste patches of built-up areas. If you require any help n identifying which
species it is that you have seen, the I would refer you to Christian Gross’
book "Mammals of the Arabian Gulf" which is published by Motivate
Publishing and is part of their Arabian Heritage series. I suspect that there is
a copy in the Group’s library.