Natural History Awards
Inter-Emirates Weekend was the occasion for presentation of the ENHG's annual
natural history awards. The Sheikh Mubarak Award, which honors contributions by
a professional to the understanding of UAE natural history, went to Peter
Cunningham, a DNHG member whose information and reports on diverse natural
history topics have frequently appeared in the Gazelle, in Tribulus, and in a
number of professional publications. The Bish Brown Award, which honors
non-professionals for similar achievements, went to Ibrahim Zakhour of Al-Ain,
the popular, long-time trip leader of the ENHG in Al-Ain. The DNHG congratulates
these deserving award winners.
Thanks to Gary Feulner for this information
Return to top
RAK Museum Website
The website of the National Museum of Ras al-Khaimah, www.RAKmuseum.gov.ae,
is now online, and is recommended to anyone interested in UAE archeology,
history, culture, jewelry, handicrafts etc. The site is admirably
straightforward, informative and easy to use. Subject areas are well indexed and
the site features both background information and illustrations and descriptions
of specific items in the museum's collection. The site has been prepared under
the supervision of RAK museum's resident archeologist Christian Velde, who
welcomes comments. The information and exhibitions currently available on the
site will be further expanded when Christian returns in October.
Return to top
Fish Website Recommended
For anyone interested in fish identification – or in website design -- Phil
Iddison of Al-Ain, a former DNHG speaker, has written to extol the virtues of an
excellent website: www.fishbase.org/home.htm. Says Phil, "[I]t is worth
exploring as an example of just how good a site can be in terms of offering
solid information in a well organized manner." Phil adds (too
pessimistically, we hope) that this is perhaps "only possible with someone
like FAO as sponsor."
Return to top
UAE Archeology Website
Members interested in local and regional archeology may want to visit the
website of the Abu Dhabi Islands Archeological Survey (ADIAS) at
www.adias-uae.com. The site contains lots of information not readily accessible
Members interested to follow up on developments in Abu Dhabi archaeology,
following last month's talk by Dan Hull, Resident Archaeologist of the Abu Dhabi
Islands Archaeological Survey, ADIAS, might like to take a look at the ADIAS
website, which can be found at www.adias-uae.com
The site contains latest press releases, a publications list, an archive of
ADIAS radiocarbon dating results, a picture gallery and more, as well as links
to other sites related to Arabian archaeology. Webmaster for the site is Dr.
Mark Beech, who also maintains the UAE Fishes Guide mentioned in last month's
With the annual archaeology season drawing to a close in early May, Dan has
now left ADIAS and has returned to the University of York where he plans to
pursue doctoral research. He is being replaced in October by Mark Beech, who
joins the ADIAS team, including Peter Hellyer and Simon Aspinall. Mark will also
join the Tribulus editorial board from the autumn.
Thanks to Peter Hellyer
Return to top
Twitchers' Guide Web Address
The correct address to find the weekly UAE Twitchers' Guide is
www.uaeinteract.com (the official website of the Ministry of Information and
Culture). Just open it up, go to Birds, and the way to the page is clearly
identified. Any reports should be sent to me (Peter Hellyer) or to Simon Aspinall. Reports for inclusion
in the national database maintained by the Emirates Bird Records Committee
should go either to Colin Richardson
(editor, UAE monthly report) OR to the EBRC Secretary, David Diskin.
Return to top
Camel Milk Available in Dubai
Further to Dr. Wernery's talk on camels and the benefits of drinking camel
milk, 100% Camel Milk is now on sale at Spinneys. I've bought some and it tastes
delicious...I'm probably the last to know it's in the market, but just in case
others haven't noticed the small bottles I thought I would let the DNHG group
Return to top
Inter-Emirates Weekend at Mafraq
Report by Gary Feulner and Valerie Chalmers, with help from Mary Ann
The Mafraq Hotel was the base for a program of diverse and
out-of-the-ordinary activities at the 2002 Inter-Emirates Weekend in March. The
most commonly heard complaint was that there was not time enough to do
everything, even though many of the outings were repeated on both Thursday and
At the hotel itself were a collection of animals of various sorts (including
microscopic), a snake photo quiz, a bird quiz, a flower hunt, and insect
collection equipment (in use after dark). For night owls, astronomy was an
option, and in addition to good views of summer constellations such as Scorpio,
Cygnus, Aquila and Lyra, the skywatching group was treated to a flash from the
Iridium 29 satellite, on schedule at exactly 04:44:21, spotted by the DNHG's own
Two desert ecology trips ventured into the desert towards Sweihan. The Friday
trip took advantage of the experience of the Thursday afternoon trip and took
the easy way in to collect the traps that had been laid. These produced six
Cheesman's gerbils (we examined the distinctive white hair on the soles of the
feet) plus a sand boa (we viewed its two tiny vestigial legs). Seen "in
action" were an Arabian toad-headed agama, a desert race runner, a dhub and
its burrow, two gazelle, and a desert hare (glimpsed briefly). A male rock
thrush joined the usual compliment of desert birds in the shelter of a couple of
ghaf trees. The group even spotted and collected some pottery and ostrich shell
jewelry (noting the site) for donation to ADIAS. What trip leader Chris Drew (of
ERWDA) still doesn't know is that his departure route, although it was executed
without major difficulty, involved trickier sand driving than most people will
Abu Dhabi's nearshore islands have played a major role in its history and
natural history, and boat trips to several areas were part of the itinerary. A
Thursday boat trip saw Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and, on land, a fox and
tern eggs. Futaisi Island was a popular Friday boat trip destination, with two
groups covering different itineraries. One group focused on archeology and made
its way slowly across the island to the fort, stopping enroute at a Late Islamic
water-collecting cistern in a garden, said toe be the best example in any of the
islands. From pottery shards they learned to distinguish ‘chocolate chip’
18th to 19th Century ware and earlier Julfarware, made in Ra's al-Khaimah. Also
examined were oyster shell middens, typical of Abu Dhabi, and a graveyard with
graves oriented N-S (very Late Islamic) and a mosque sitting on top.
Wildlife seen along the way included ospreys in the air and, on land, large
spiny-tailed lizards (dhubs) and several sand gazelle. Three types of salt bush
dominated the vegetation and these were Arthrocnemum macrostachyum, Halocnemum
strobilaceum and Halopeplis perfoliata (Glass Beads). Participants rated it a
long but enjoyable walk and eventually reached the fort where they took a
well-earned rest in the shade. (Trip leader Dick Hornby took a few people off to
look for a ‘little creature’ with a tuber-shaped body which pokes its long
slimy tongue (less than 1cm long) out of the wet sand.) For birders, a special
highlight of the Futaisi Island trip was a 3-metre osprey nest (the product of
generations of birds) and an elusive Rufous Bush Chat. All this was followed by
a swim and an excellent lunch.
Also for birdwatchers, there were morning and afternoon trips to the Al
Wathba fodder fields, the site of many species new to the UAE in recent years,
and the normally restricted Al Wathba lake (formerly Al-Ghar lake), a wetlands
site where flamingoes have repeatedly made attempts to breed. At the lake we saw
various waders and shorebirds and posed for photos in front of the hide visited
by Prince Charles.
[P.S.: Next year is Dubai's turn to host Inter-Emirates Weekend, and it is
never too early to start thinking about ideas.]
Return to top
Pistachios in the Musandam
Report by Gary Feulner
Identification by Prof. Loutfy Boulos has confirmed the presence of wild
pistachio trees Pistacia khinjuk in the mountains of the Musandum area, in a
tributary of Wadi Khabb Shamsi. The trees were first noticed by Gary Feulner and
Barbara Couldrey. A follow-up visit counted 16 trees along some 3 km of wadi.
Several of the trees were in flower in mid-March and in fruit in early April.
Gary admits he made the decision to visit this particular wadi shortly after
realizing it was one that had escaped him over the years, but he and Barbara
were on the lookout, knowing that this area near the main gorges of Wadi Khabb
Shamsi contains several species of trees and shrubs that are otherwise very
rare. Most of these grow there as cliff plants, out of reach of animals and
humans alike. The pistachios were no exception, but Gary and Barbara were able
to make their way to a few specimens for a closer look.
Return to top
Toads in Mountain Cisterns
Report by Gary Feulner
A few months ago, a DNHG field trip to the mountain settlement of Sal Dhayah,
north of Ras al-Khaimah, featured the dramatic rescue of a young goat trapped in
a dry cistern. In early May, Barbara Couldrey and Gary Feulner returned to the
area and found, to their surprise, that two traditional stone-lined cisterns at
either end of the settlement had been filled with almost a meter of water.
Although several other cisterns were empty, the two in question remained better
served by their original falaj troughs, and this appears to have made the
difference, apparently concentrating runoff from recent showers.
Equally surprising was to find toads and tadpoles in the cisterns. In one,
dozens of tadpoles and tiny toads swam at the surface, the toadlets often
resting at the waterline along the vertical walls. Barbara spotted a single,
rather large adult at the shady end, apparently trying to exit, persistently but
unsuccessfully, by climbing the 2 metres or so to the top of the cistern. In the
second cistern there were only large tadpoles, some with well developed legs.
Many of these tadpoles had developed the habit of swimming at the surface in an
upside down position, feeding on surface organisms and debris (including many
Acacia tortilis blossoms) with their ventrally located mouths.
The large size of all of the tadpoles and the presence of toadlets in one
cistern indicates that the rain responsible for their birth fell as much as a
couple of months ago or more. It is an interesting question, however, just where
these toads came from and where they will go. Most cisterns at Sal Dhayah are 2
to 4 metres deep and Barbara and Gary agreed, consistent with what they
witnessed, that toads would be unable to exit these cisterns unless the water
level was at or near the lip. This raises the possibility that, during periods
of limited rain, toads are born and grow to adulthood wholly within the confines
of a single cistern, where (if they survive to adulthood) they must burrow and
aestivate in the drying mud of the empty cistern (which they can do for periods
of two years or more), emerging with the next rains to breed, but dispersing
only if the rain is sufficient to cause the cistern to overflow. Although these
cisterns may be larger than many of the ephemeral natural pools in which local
toads breed, it is generally possible for toads to escape from natural pools,
and adult B. dhufarensis
are usually said to be found away from water rather
than in it. In any case, once dispersed, adult toads would be constrained to
return to water to breed. In or near settlements, cisterns will often be the
most reliable venue.
The widespread but rather circumspect presence of toads in the Musandam area
has only recently been appreciated. It was reported on in an article in Tribulus
11.2 (Autumn/Winter 2001) by DNHG members Peter Cunningham and Gary Feulner, who
found that virtually all of the toads within the mountains of the Musandam
region are the Dhofar toad Bufo dhufarensis, whereas the most common toad by far
in the mountains of the UAE from Khatt and Dibba southwards is the Arabian toad
Bufo arabicus. The Sal Dhayah toads and tadpoles were inspected with binoculars
and, consistent with expectations, they were found to be Dhofar toads.
Return to top
Out of Africa: Al Maha
Report by Gary Feulner
The desert near the Al Maha resort has had no rain for several years, apart
from a thunderstorm in mid-2000. This, combined with heavy grazing pressure from
camels, meant that the flora was limited. Near a long-established plantation and
camel camp on a broad sand flats, Sodom's Apple Calotropis procera and the
Desert Squash Citrullus colocynthis were abundant, but little else. Further into
the desert the principal shrub was the Fireworks bush Leptadenia pyrotechnica,
in which gazelle sometimes shelter. A few dense, grazed shrubs of the Desert
Thorn Lycium shawii, looking like sculptures bonsai, somehow managed to bear
fruit, small red berries decorating their interior. At a camel camp situated
among some rolling, ghaf tree covered dunes, we were sad to see that most of the
ghafs had been severely cropped for fodder. No one could say whether these large
trees, whose roots can extend for more than 60 meters, could survive this
intensive, non-traditional cropping.
After a coffee stop, Peter van Amsterdam and Anne Millen demonstrated once
again why they are among our most popular trip leaders. "Would you like to
see oryx?" Peter asked. Silly question. Peter had ordered up a herd of 25
or so Arabian oryx, waiting for us along the Al Maha fence, including juveniles
of several ages, coloured from beige (the youngest) to white. Enroute we watched
a small squadron of European bee-eaters mob a still-unidentified eagle. "So
you like antelope?" said Peter. And off we headed for a detour to the
menagerie of one of the Dubai sheikhs at Marqab, to see some African species
including Baisa oryx (native to North Africa), Eland, Sable, and several gazelle
species including Arabia's own reem or sand gazelle. The main attraction,
however, was the flock of ostriches, all a bit the worse for wear, most with
bald rumps from (it seemed) picking flies or other parasites off each other.
The wind rose at lunchtime, giving added meaning to the term
"sand"wich. Having tested the group in action, Peter and Anne headed
off track after lunch. It was instructive to watch their well coordinated
teamwork. At one problematic passage in some high dunes, Anne carefully scouted
hundreds of metres on foot, only to turn and find Peter right behind her with
the car. Gaynor Mulholland was making her very first desert drive and turned in
a superb performance, getting herself into and out of several tricky situations
on soft slopes and ridges. The Usshers made their own thrills. Dared by his wife
and son John, and with the end in sight, Anthony took on a ski jump and made a
perfect three-point landing - front wheels dug in and one rear wheel waving in
mid-air. Rescue awaited many photographs for the family album. Margaret and
Lothar Trinogga were more notable for their measured calm, matched only by their
gear, which won the day's award for best tie-downs. With the wind still picking
up, Peter and Anne wisely elected an exit via a gravelled track through the big
dune patches north of the Shuwayb Dam.
Return to top
What's in a name? Wadi Khabb, etc.
Report by Gary Feulner
To those in the know, the name of Wadi Khabb will sound familiar. But don't
be fooled -- there's danger afoot for the unwary. Wadi Khabb (plain vanilla) is
a large wadi that drains much of the mountains in the area E of RAK airport, and
flows out SSW to Tawiyyan. At least half of it, and all of the driveable track,
is in the UAE, and it continues to be extensively developed for agriculture.
Confusion often arises, however, with Wadi Khabb Shamsi, which constitutes the
Gulf of Oman side of the "over-the-top" route from RAK to Dibba. Wadi
Khabb Shamsi is wholly in Oman. To add to the confusion, an early and populous
branch of Wadi Khabb Shamsi is Wadi Khabb Naqbi.
What is a khabb? And what do these names mean? The answer depends a little
bit on who you ask. William Lancaster, an anthropologist who asks similar
questions in the mountains for a living, cautioned that it is surprisingly
difficult to get agreement on such points. According to a Shihuh friend of Gary
Feulner, in the Ru'us al-Jibal (the mountains of the Musandam region) a khabb
denotes a shallow hole or depression, possibly best translated as trough or
basin or hollow. If so, however, a bit of understatement is at work, since all
of the khabbs named above are formidable wadis and none meets the average
flatlander's of "shallow." But a Ras al-Khaimah government official
who also grew up in the Musandam says that he understands khabb to be just a
local word for "fork" or "branch" (of a wadi).
In any case, the name has been applied to other places such as Wadi Khabbayn
("Two Khabbs"), a tributary of Wadi Bih which in fact branches near
its mouth into two nearly equal forks. The name Khabb Shamsi is said with
greater certainty to refer to the Al Bu Shamis tribe (not the sun or shams) and
Khabb Naqbi is likewise said to be named for the Naqbiyyin tribe.
Return to top
A reminder, especially for new members: your unwanted garden snails and slugs
are wanted for scientific study and an accounting of the terrestrial snails of
the UAE. All specimens will be gratefully accepted by Chairman Gary Feulner, and
contributors will be kept informed of progress and pedigrees. Suburban gardens
are home to several native Arabian snails, but also a number of introduced
species. There have already been a few surprises and we know that more are out
there. Dead shells are preferred; we'll follow up if you've got something
unusual. It's easy. Just bag 'em and tag 'em! Please remember to record the
location and the habitat, as well as your name, the date, and any remarks.
Return to top
Report by Marijcke Jongbloed
The fifteen or so participants of the Gubrah Bowl trip met at the Sohar hotel
for coffee or lunch before setting out into the Oman mountains. Rustaq was the
first stop. Most people went to visit the beautifully renovated fort, but I
chose to walk around town a bit, having seen the fort before. Almost immediately
I found some interesting plants: the jute plant Corchorus - but a variety with
much larger flowers and leaves than our local one; Solanum incanum a member of
the nightshade family with a large purple flower and yellow fruits, and a Cleome
that was new to me.
It was late afternoon when we reached the camping spot, which was located at
the foot of the mountains that form the ring of Gubrah Bowl. It was a very nice
spot, but the wildflowers that I had expected were nowhere to be seen. Obviously
this part of Oman had had as little rain as we have had the past four years. All
was dry, grey and dusty. That did not prevent the group from having a great
evening under the stars, singing songs from all over the world. No doubt
The next day was a gorgeous day, sunny and hot, and we set out on our
wildflower foray. Peter thought there might be more vegetation in a wadi around
the back of the mountains, but the countryside remained bleak and barren. I did
point out some perennials that were already past flowering, and some annuals
that were about 3 mm in height, but so far it was not a highly successful
botanical tour! High up on the mountain side, we saw two villages which had
adjoining plantations. We decided to see if we could get there. The plantation
of the first village seemed hard to reach so we continued our way up. There the
first interesting botanical find occurred: a Maerua crassifolia tree in full
flower. This species is rare here (I am not sure that it has ever been seen in
UAE territory) but in Gubrah Bowl it is omnipresent. It attracted clouds of
Desert White butterflies!
The upper village, called Wakan, had only limited parking place, but we
managed to find a spot for each of us. The view from this point was stunning,
especially in the early morning when the air was still clear. Mini went into the
village to see if we could get permission to see the plantation. It seemed to be
no problem and in fact the villagers were very good about having so many
strangers invade their privacy. A small path led through the village and a dense
pomegranate plantation. Then fields of wheat appeared and immediately there were
dozens of wonderful spring annuals to be seen: a dark pink Dianthus (carnation),
the yellow buttercup Ranunculus muricatus, the vetch Vicia sativa, the small
purple Fumaria parviflora that is very rare here, and dozens of the broomrape
Orobanche aegyptiaca, only seen by me once before. I even found a specimen of
Veronica, which I do not associate with desert climates! Peach trees blossomed
and vines with grapes were in evidence. Beans were being harvested, and many
other crops were being grown. Mini said that she had never seen such a beautiful
oasis before. Children were pulling water bottles on small carts, having filled
them at the fresh water spring that runs permanently, we were told. Old men were
squatting between the beans to harvest the vegetable. It was a shame that we did
not have more time because only a few of us made it to the higher levels of the
plantation. I took two rolls of films of pictures, mostly to illustrate the new
book. After an hour or so we had to make it down the mountains again to find a
shady place for lunch and allow people enough time to make the long drive back
to Dubai. A shady sidr tree, next to some fantastic Maerua trees, provided a
good place to sample Valerie's amazing carrot cake, after which we split up in
various groups to either go back or continue separately.
Return to top
Coming! A Guide to the Wildflowers of the UAE
The Environment Research and Wildlife Development Agency in Abu Dhabi has
decided to give financial support to Marijcke Jongbloed in order to produce the
comprehensive Guide to the Wildflowers of the UAE. The book shall contain around
600 species of the annuals and perennials that occur in the UAE and the
adjoining areas of Oman (basically the places UAE residents can reach without
getting a visa) and shall be illustrated with colour photographs of each of the
plant and their details. Wherever it is necessary line drawings will clarify
some salient point of recognition of the plants. Marijcke will cooperate closely
with other botanical experts such as Prof. Loutfy Boulos, Rob Western, Benno
Boer, and Gary Feulner in order to get the best possible identifications,
photographs, and descriptions of plants, habitats and distributions. The project
is planned to take 13 months, with publication of the book set for early April
Return to top
Domestic Cats as a Threat to the Environment in the UAE
Report by Peter Cunningham
It is not certain when the domestication of cats occurred, but what is
confirmed is that humans have always had an affinity for this feline. Ancient
Egyptian art including the city Bubastis, that was devoted to their worship
(Anderson & de Winton 1902), confirms this early association with humans. As
they are highly versatile creatures with a very wide habitat tolerance, they can
become feral very successfully and have managed to establish themselves as feral
populations in as diverse situations as the Kalahari Desert in Botswana to
Marion Island in the sub-Antarctic (Skinner & Smithers 1990). Marion Island
is a good "bad case scenario" as five cats were originally introduced
in 1949 (van Aarde & Robinson 1980) to control house mice, but by 1977 an
established feral population of approximately 3400 were ravaging the marine bird
population. An alarming natural increase per annum of 23% (van Aarde 1978) was
estimated for the feral cat population which resulted in a dramatic eradication
programme to rid the island of this scourge.
A pair of breeding cats, which can have two or more litters per year, can
exponentially produce 420,000 offspring over a seven-year period (Savage 2001).
It is estimated that the United Kingdom and the USA have 1 million and 60
million feral cats, respectively (Hartwell 1996). The problem is thus daunting
with few real solutions offered. This note touches on a few issues concerning
feral cats and possible implications.
A most disconcerting issue is the genetic pollution through hybridization.
According to Skinner & Smithers (1990) and Griffin & Simmons (1998), the
African wild cat (Felis lybica – conspecific with F.silvestris from Arabia)
interbreeds with the domestic cat where they come into contact. This results in
fertile hybrids (Bothma 1996) and possibly the decline of pure-bred African wild
cats anywhere near settled areas, rendering the species vulnerable (Smithers
1986). The fate of F.silvestris from Arabia is probably similar. Harrison &
Bates (1991) state that great difficulty is experienced in differentiating
between domestic cat and Wild Cat in Arabia. This could indicate historic
interbreeding with the possibility that little if any genetically
"pure" Wild Cats remain locally. This would however have to be
Fitzgerald (1988) states that the diet of feral cats include small mammals
(70%), birds (20%) and a variety of other animals (10%). The diets of feral cat
populations, however, reflect the food locally available. Observation of feral
cats shows that some individuals can kill over 1000 wild animals per year
(Bradt, 1949). It is estimated that over a billion small mammals and hundreds of
millions of birds are killed by cats (including domestic cats) each year in the
USA (Coleman & Temple, 1996). In Australia both feral and domestic cats kill
more than 100 native Australian species of birds, 50 mammal and marsupial
species, 50 reptile species, and numerous frogs and invertebrate species (Anon,
1997a). Worldwide, cats may have been involved in the extinction of more bird
species than any other cause, except habitat destruction (Coleman, Temple, &
Cats are skilled and successful hunters, as anyone who has ever watched a
stalking cat would confirm. Virtually any species smaller than it is fair game.
Bambaradeniya et al. (2001) state that domestic/feral cats, as opportunistic
predators and scavengers, are an additional threat to the herpetofauna of Sri
Lanka while Pero & Crowe (1996) recognize that nest predation by feral cats
may cause potential danger to game birds. Cats can result in dramatic declines
of birds as indicated on Marion Island with its vulnerable ground nesting and
burrow nesting marine birds. By 1965/66 the once common Diving Petrel no longer
nested on the island due to heavy predation by cats.
It is not documented how many cats are officially and/or unofficially
resident in and around towns and cities throughout the UAE, but it can fairly
accurately be assumed that an alarming number of reptiles and small mammals must
certainly fall prey to them. What the effect on local bird and reptile
populations is could only be speculated. For the defense of feral cats the
following has been documented. Hartwell (1995) states that cats prefer to hunt
introduced "pest" species (pigeons, rabbits, mice, etc.) and even
co-exist with the marsupial "Native Cat" in Tasmania. Ally Cat Allies
(ACA) state that the impact of feral cats on bird populations is negligible and
that the decline of bird and other wildlife populations is rather directly
linked to the loss of natural habitat (Anonymous, 1997b).
It is feared that feral cats also compete with native predators by reducing
the availability of prey species. The effect that feral cats have on the local
environment is something that has to be investigated further.
Contagious diseases of domestic cats can be important since these diseases
can possibly be transmitted to wild cat species (Bothma 1996). Cases such as
feline leukemia spreading to mountain lions (Jessup et al. 1993) and feline
panleukopenia (feline distemper) spreading to the endangered Florida Panther
(Roelke et al. 1993) have already been documented in the USA. Domestic
carnivores should always be considered a potential source of contamination for
wild ones. Mönnig & Veldman (1989) name cat flu (Parvovirus disease) and
cat tapeworm (Taenia taeniaeformis), last mentioned transmitted through
rats/mice, as 2 important diseases which are linked to domestic cats. How these
diseases affect wild cats is also unknown. Feral cats are thought not to act as
a vector for rabies although they are susceptible to the disease and do die from
it. Toxoplasmosis is another disease transmitted by cats and which can cause
blindness, birth defects and miscarriage in humans (Anon 1997a).
On Marion Island it took almost 15 years of crude methods ranging from the
introduction of Cat flu, actively hunting to poisoning to eradicate a few
thousand cats in a relatively small and isolated area (Bester et al. 2000).
However, extermination isn't simple or straightforward and is often
counter-productive. No eradication method is 100% effective in eliminating cats
and those which evade the exterminators breed several times a year depending on
climate and available food/shelter, thus quickly re-colonising the area
(Hartwell 1995). Cleared areas also attract new cats from outside due to the
vacancy of a favourable habitat with under utilized food/prey.
Australian studies found that the neutering of several feral colonies led to
an overall reduction in cat numbers as the resident, non-breeding populations
deterred other cats which would have swarmed into a vacated area (Hartwell
Eradication methods, even if implemented humanely, cannot solve the feral cat
problem. Trapping and neutering does however offer a longer-term solution
although it is very expensive. The only way to keep an area cat-free is to
remove food sources (edible refuse, prey species, handouts by cat-lovers),
something, which is often impossible or impractical.
What you can do
Very little scientific work has focussed on the influences of domestic and/or
feral cats on their immediate environment in the UAE. The concerns as documented
in this note do however acknowledge a potential threat and warn against the
long-term implications of the further establishment of feral cats throughout the
It is thus strongly suggested that the feeding of feral cats be dissuaded and
an effective neutering and/or eradication programme be implemented to protect
indigenous and endemic species, and ultimately the UAE’s heritage, from
falling prey to feral cats. Further research is also necessary to determine the
extent of the problem.
- Keep only as many pet cats as you can feed and care for.
- Control reproduction and humanely euthanize unwanted cats.
- On farms, keep only the minimum number of free-ranging cats needed to
- Neuter your cats or prevent them from breeding, and encourage others to do
- Support or initiate efforts to require licensing and neutering of pets. In
areas where such laws already exist, insist that they be enforced.
- Locate bird feeders in sites that do not provide cover for cats to wait in
ambush for birds.
- Don't dispose of unwanted cats by releasing them in rural areas.
- Eliminate sources of food, such as garbage or outdoor pet food dishes, that
attract stray cats.
- Don't feed stray cats.
- If at all possible, for the sake of your cat and local wildlife, keep your
- Contact your local animal welfare organization for help.
Anderson, J. & de Winton, W.E. 1902. Zoology of Egypt, Mammalia. Hugh
Rees Pub. London. In: Harrison, D.L. & Bates, P.J.J. 1991. The Mammals of
Arabia. Harrison Zoological Museum Pub. Kent, UK.
Anonymous, 1997a. Cats and Wildlife. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service,
Anonymous, 1997b. Feral Cats, New Environmental Witch-Hunt. Alley Cat Allies
Bambaradeniya, C.N.B., Wickramasinghe, L.J.M., Samarawickrama, V.A.P. &
Kekulandala, L.D.C.B. 2001. Herpetofaunal mortality in highways: A case study
from Sri Lanka. Abstracts – Fourth World Congress of Herpetology, 3rd-9th
December 2001, Bentota, Sri Lanka: 10-11.
Bester, M.N., Bloomer, J.P., Bartlett, P.A., Muller, D.D., van Rooyen, M.
& Büchner, H. Final eradication of feral cats from sub-Antarctic Marion
Island, southern Indian Ocean. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 30(1):
Bothma, J. du P. 1996. Game ranch management. J.L. Van Schaik Publishers,
Bradt, G.W. 1949. Farm cat as predator. Michigan Conservation 18(4): 23-25.
Coleman, J.S. & Temple, S.A. 1996. On the Prowl. Wisconsin Natural
Coleman, J.S., Temple, S.A. & Craven, S.R. 1997. Cats and Wildlife...A
Conservation Dilemma. [http://www.wisc.edu/wildlife/e-pubs.html]
Fitzgerald, B.M. 1988. Diet of domestic cats and their impact on prey
populations. In: Turner, D.C. & Bateson, P. (eds.). The Domestic Cat: The
Biology of its behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Harrison, D.L. & Bates, P.J.J. 1991. The Mammals of Arabia. Harrison
Zoological Museum Pub. Kent, UK.
Hartwell, S. 1995. Why feral eradication won't work. Feline Advisory Bureau.
Hartwell, S. 1996. The American feral cat problem. Feline Advisory Bureau.
Jessup, D.A., Pettan, K.C., Lowenstine, L.J. & Pedersen, N.C. 1993.
Feline leukemia virus infection and renal spirochetosis in free-ranging cougar
(Felis concolor). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 24:73-79.
Mönnig, H.O. & Veldman, F.J. 1989. Handbook on stock diseases. Tafelberg
Publishers, Cape Town, RSA.
Pero, L.V. & Crowe, T.M. 1996. Helmeted Guineafowl, Numida meleagris, in
Kwazulu-Natal – A case for non-sustainability. South African Journal of
Wildlife Research 26(4): 123-130.
Roelke, M.E., Forester, D.J., Jacobson, E.R., Kollias, G.V., Scott, F.W.,
Barr, M.C., Evermann, J.F. & Pirtel, E.C. 1993. Seroprevalence of infectious
disease agents in free-ranging Florida panthers (Felis concolor coryi). Journal
of Wildlife Diseases 29: 36-49.
Savage, R. 2001. Feral Cat Coalition. San Diego, California, USA.
Skinner, J.D. & Smithers, R.H.N. 1990. Mammals of the Southern African
subregion. University of Pretoria, Pretoria, RSA.
Smithers, R.H.N. 1986. South African red data book: terrestrial mammals. S.A.
National Scientific Programmes Report No. 125: 1-216. Pretoria, C.S.I.R.
Van Aarde, R.J. 1978. Reproduction and population ecology in the feral house
cat on Marion Island. Carnivore Genetics Newsletter 3: 288-316.
Van Aarde, R.J. & Robinson, T.J. 1980. Gene frequencies in feral cats on
Marion Island. Journal of Heredity 71: 361-368.
Return to top
Joint ENHG Abu Dhabi and DNHG Fossil Trip to Jebel
Rawdah, January 2002
Report by Valerie Chalmers
30 members of the Dubai Natural History Group set out, in convoy, from the
International World Trade Centre Hotel covered car park, at 8.15 a.m., on
January 18th 2002, to visit Jebel Rawdah which is not far from Madam and lies to
the left of the road which runs from Madam to Hatta. They were joined at the
Madam roundabout by 10 members of the Emirates Natural History Group, Abu Dhabi,
who had camped overnight at Jebel Buhays. At Jebel Rawdah, late Cretaceous
marine sediments directly overlie ophiolite on the northern side and, at the
south-eastern end they rest on deformed and steeply dipping sedimentary rocks of
the Hawasina group. First of all we visited the south-eastern end to look for
fossils. After a short briefing and the distribution of fossil identification
sheets, we set out to see what we could find. A good selection of fossils was
collected over a period of an hour and a half. Lots of gastropods including 9
specimens of the flattened type Trochacea, several specimens of Acteonella, many
Natica, 2 specimens of the large gastropod Campanile, several olives, members of
the Strombidae plus other assorted shapes were found. The bivalves found
included Neithea, lophate oysters, mussels, cockles and at a least 15 specimens
of Scabrotrigonia (Trigonidae). A few specimens of rudists (a special type of
bivalve, now extinct) were also seen. These included Durania and a few specimens
of hippuritids. Many specimens of the solitary discoidal (almost button-like)
coral Cunnolites plus colonial corals were seen. Specimens of the larger benthic
foraminifera Loftusia (cigar –shaped) and Nummulites were also found. One
specimen of Deltoidonautilus which belongs to the Cephalopods and has low,
relatively shallow and lobed suture lines compared with the more strongly folded
suture lines of Ammonites was found. Jebel Rawdah has been a good place to find
specimens of echinoderms and those found included Globator, Conulus,
Coenholectypus, Hattopsis, Faujasia, Nucleopypus, Vologesia rawdahensis,
Mecaster victoris and Goniopygus. These are illustrated in the attached sheet.
One fish tooth was also found.
After an identification session, some members made their respective ways back
to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The rest of us drove round the back of Jebel Rawdah for
lunch and then spent a short while looking for fossils there. Of note, one
specimen of the large echinoid Hemipneustes arabicus and one of Orthopsis
miliaris were found in addition to further specimens of fossils already found at
the first site.
Return to top
Shelling Field Trip March 2002
Report by Sandy Fowler
An ideally sized group of shellers met up on Khor Fakkan corniche at 10.30 am
to witness Sandy being 5 minutes late for the first time in 10 years! They were
briefed on a selection of at least three other beaches to visit, and started
shelling only 25 yards from the cars. With a reasonable reward from the corniche
beach, including some cones (Conidae) and sundial shells (Architectonidae),
graffiti beach (now signposted Lulayya village) was next tackled and, although
there was a disappointing lack of cones to be found, Sandy Fowler managed to
spot a small paper nautilus high up on the beach. Further up the coast was the
third beach, close to Sandy Beach Motel. This one lived up to its nickname
(Wentle cove) with three wentletraps (Epitoniidae) of two species being found as
well as four cowry species. A hot sun and little wind were by this time weeding
out the saner members of the group, but some pressed on northwards to check out
another two beaches. Unfortunately, little of note was found on them. A good
day, that seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Return to top
On Friday, March 29th a group of 44 people from Dubai Natural History Group
were introduced to Lamjid’s bold new venture, a ‘live-aboard’ dhow, which
is based at Dibba. Lamjid saw there was a need for a modern version of the
traditional dhow which would both give divers a comfortable base to use, and day
trippers who wanted to cruise the Musandam, snorkelling and relaxing. Lamjid
designed and commissioned a boat that he felt would suit everyone’s needs. It
is on three levels. Air-conditioned sleeping berths and bathrooms on the lower
deck, a sitting room/galley and captain’s area with a large seating area for
the visitors on the quarter deck, and plenty of space for sun loungers and
diving equipment on the top deck. Needless to say, Lamjid has thought about
safety, and talked about that aspect before the cruise started. Life jackets
were available for everyone should the need arise.
We were welcomed aboard with breakfast, hot coffee and croissants and stood
on deck, watching a fish auction in Dibba harbour. The fisherman rushed in with
their night’s catch where a group of buyers were awaiting them. One Omani
stepped forward to take the role of autioneer. Lively bidding was over in a few
minutes and the fish were loaded into waiting cool boxes. There seemed to be
some large kingfish for sale, barracuda, a few hamour and one shark – but it
was noticeable that these were not huge catches.
We then set off for our day’s cruise and were shown two villages. The first
had a perilous road down to the village, but the second was only accessible from
the sea. Small stone houses, still inhabited, showed the style of building
before the arrival of modern materials and conveniences. Cheerful locals waved
Later we anchored and most people took the opportunity to snorkel over the
coral reef. If anyone hadn’t thought to bring snorkels, masks and flippers
that was no problem. There was enough equipment for everyone to use. Hard and
soft corals formed the reef and there was a wide variety of reef fish. Lamjid
has designed a diving platform that is easy to use – none of the leaping off
from a precarious ladder, as is the way that swimmers enter the water from
ordinary dhows. A hot lunch of tuna, chicken, salads and rice was being prepared
in the galley which was quite delicious and gave us all a chance to chat and get
to know other members of the group on board. Two experienced divers are joining
the staff this week to organise the venture and they were able to tell us of the
future plans for the dhows. There is a second dhow on its way already and they
are hoping to build up their clientele from dive and tour companies, as well as
hotels in the Emirates.
Finally we steamed back to Dibba with rain clouds hovering overhead. Everyone
agreed the day had been superbly organised. We had all had a fun-filled,
relaxing day. Wonderful job, Lamjid.
Lamjid is offering trips which will cover more ground around the Musandam.
His contact numbers are Lamjid or
050 4815068 if you want to receive more details. What a perfect way this would
be also to entertain visitors to the Emirates. There is no need to wait for DNHG
to organise it for you – just contact Lamjid direct.
Return to top