Bulletin 37 - March 1989: Mammal Recorder's Report, 1988

Mammal Recorder's Report, 1988

In last year's report, prepared a week or two after I had taken over as Recorder, I appealed for records - of all and anything. I am pleased to note that this year there has been a substantial increase in records, many by members who have not submitted reports in the past. Many thanks.

In this report, most of the 1988 records are included, partly to show the growth in number since last year, and partly also to show how much more needs to be done. Expertise is not a prerequisite; while not all members may be prepared to pick up a squashed and smelly gerbil from the road, there is no reason why a skull that has been picked clean and bleached by the sun cannot be popped into a plastic bag.

More species have been noted this year, and recordings have also come in from more areas. Some carcasses have also been collected, and are, at present, kept in the ENHG deep-freeze in the Old Fort.

As a result, the Mammal Report this year is less dependent upon newspaper cuttings. However, once again, it is to the papers that we owe our happiest and saddest records of the year - the successful breeding of Gordon's Wildcats by ENHG member Marijcke Jongbloed in Dubai and the killing of three Arabian Leopards in Jebel Haqah in April. Also from the press came news of continued hunting by local inhabitants in the Ras al Khaimah mountains. Details are below. The reports underline the necessity for a broader understanding of wildlife conservation issues in the UAE. While Committee members have raised the topic with our Patron, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan, he rightly makes the points that a) education is the key and b) that attitudes towards conservation varies from Emirate to Emirate. Any member with the ability or opportunity to lobby Rulers should never waste the chance.

There is a long way to go in getting an adequate understanding of the UAE's mammal life, both onshore and offshore. Most of our records are still of common species like hares and foxes, and while it is good to have them, there is a need also for records of less common species. As the reports below show, we have very few records of bats, while reports of smaller mammals like gerbils and jerboas are often imprecise.

As members may know, a new grid system for recording birds was instituted from January 1 1089. It will also be used for mammal recording purposes and, together with our planned use of computers, may help us to begin the preparation of distribution maps for the more common species, the Red Fox, for example, recorded this year in Khor Kalba, Shah, Umm al Qawain, Jebel Dhanna, Buraimi and all the way along the Suweihan Road. Nobody else is doing it as far as we know. Volunteers welcome.

Finally, I took over the task of Mammal Recorder just over a year ago in the hope of stimulating renewed activity in this important field. The substantial increase in the number of recordings (many, of course, due to our indefatigable 'Bish' Brown) is a pleasant reward. Anyone with an interest in mammals (knowledge not required), however, need not feel shy about volunteering their services as an Assistant Recorder (or even as Recorder) for 1989.

Summarized Records
Hare Capus lepensis  
19/2/88 1, 2.75 km SW of Jebel Ali Hotel (GRF)
19/2/88 1, 3 km in from Abu Dhabi/Dubai Road, near Sih Shueib (PH)
15/4/88 1 dead, 5 km along road from near Ruwais to Ghiyathi (PH, JNBB)
16/4/88 1 10 km W of Musaffah Truck Road/Main Road junction, near end of hardtop track S to Sahil oilfield (RM)
11/11/88 35 km E of Mafraq towards Al Ain. Three disturbed during ENHG field trip (PH et al)
17/11/88 1 dead on road near Jebel Ali, now in ENHG freezer (YvH)
Cheesman's Gerbil Gerbillus cheesmani  
5/2/88 1 dead and 1 hopping across Jebel Ali/Hatta Road, 20 km E of Jebel Ali (JNBB)
8/7/88 1 dead 40 km E along Suweihan Road from Dubai/Abu Dhabi Road roundabout (JNBB)
3/11/88 1 dead on road at Jebel Ali (JNBB)
Cheesman's Gerbil or Baluchistan Gerbil Gerbillus nanus  
19/2/88 around two dozen disturbed in car lights after nightfall inland of Abu Dhabi/Dubai Road near Sih Shueib. Identified as "far" (mouse/rat) by a Bedouin companion. One of the two species, but as none caught, not possible to be sure which. (PH)
  Road casualties, see above, seem to be Cheesman's but some live specimens need to be captured to be sure of identification. Christian Gross, in his book 'Mammals of the Lower Gulf' (Motivate, Dubai, 1987) writes that the Baluchistan Gerbil is the most common species, but more evidence would be useful.
Lesser Jerboa Jaculus jaculus  
3/11/88 1 dead on road near Jebel Ali. Now in deep-freeze. (JNBB)
10/6/88 1 dead, (? sp.) too squashed to properly identify. 8 km from Suweihan roundabout on Abu Dhabi/Dubai Road. (JNBB)
Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus  
  Common in Abu Dhabi city, it seems, with reports throughout the year, from holes in the ground to 14th floor hallways. (GRF, PH, JNBB)
Black Rat Rattus rattus  
9/7/88 1 (? sp.) found dead, believed poisoned, outside restaurant in Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi (JNBB)
  Nests in Bateen Wood, Abu Dhabi, (in tree tops) have been identified as of this species while Alan Dickson, Chairman of the Dubai NHG, reported during the year that this species, referred to locally as the Palm Rat, is taking up to have the date crop in some Ras al Khaimah date plantations.
Dorcas Gazelle Gazella dorcas saudiya  
17/3/88 small herd (6 plus) seen on Sinaiya Island, Umm al Qawain, probably this species. The Umm al Qawain Ruler is known to protect a herd on the island, though not clear whether they are indigenous or introduced - probably the latter. Several also seen on Sinaiya on 9/12/88, presumably same herd. (JNBB, PH & ENHG ornithologists)
Arabian Gazelle Gazella gazella arabica  
6/4/88 7, probably this species, seen at 24'14'N, 54'7' E, approximately 15 miles from Abu Dhabi, from a helicopter (CvR)
Gazelle sp.  
28/10/88 1 seen at head of Wadi Hayl, Fujairah, by MvH, too distant to identify clearly. Despite occasional recordings by ENHG and others of mountain-dwelling gazelles, it is still unclear which species is there.
Red Fox Vulpes vulpes  
4/2/88 1 dead on Abu Dhabi/Suweihan Road, 1 km from Dubai Road roundabout (JNBB)
2/3/88 1 under overhang 10 km from Mileiha on Jebel Faiya (RAW)
15/4/88 4 plus holes on outcrop 10 km W of Jebel Dhanna, one with fish skull outside. No other sign of current occupation. (JNBB, PH)
29/4/88 1 at Khor Kalba, by bridge over creek. (MvH) 1 also seen same area on 28/10/88, again just after dawn. (PH)
29/4/88 1 dead on road, 3 km from Al Hair on road to Suweihan. (PH)
29/4/88 1 hunting along roadside after dark, 62 km from Al Hair on Suweihan Road. 9PH)
6/5/88 1 juvenile, 3 km from Buraimi on Mahdah track. (JNBB)
8/7/88 1 dead on Suweihan Road, approximately 50 km E of Abu Dhabi/Dubai roundabout. (JNBB)
30/9/88 Around Shah oilfield. 2 (possibly immature) seen, and many holes in area; using stack of oil pipes. (JNBB with S. Howe and A. al Marzooqi)
9/12/88 Ad-Door, Umm al Qawain. Holes at archaeological site, reported last year, still apparently in use. (PH)
  The scattering of reports confirms that the fox remains widespread despite frequent encounters with vehicles, in both semi-urban and more remote habitats.
Indian Gray Mongoose Herpestes edwardsi  
4/5/88 1 reported by DNHG member in Jumeirah, Dubai (reported in May issue of DNHG Newsletter, 'The Gazelle')
28/9/88 1 (? species) reported crossing road at Bateen Wood, Abu Dhabi. Identification uncertain, but species see in same wood previously in 9/85. (SD)
Caracal Lynx Caracal caracal  
Dec. 1987 (delayed record) 1 footprint in mud of wadi bed near Hatta by a DNHG member was carefully preserved, and is now in the ENHG Museum. In Oman, this endangered species thrives in desert areas, but in the UAE it has mainly been seen very sporadically in the mountains of N Ras al Khaimah.
Naked-bellied Tomb Rat Taphozous nudiventris  
10/4/88 (delayed record) 1 found dead at Al Ghurair Center, Dubai, tentatively identified as this species and now in ENHG deep-freeze. (SH) A dead specimen of the same species was found in the new Power Station on Das Island by D. Heath in August 1986.
Bat sp.  
18/5/88 1 large unidentified bat sp. seen flying at dusk on road from Ghayl to Manama. (JNBB)
Bottle-nosed dolphin Tursiops truncates  
4/3/88 1 dead on high tide mark on Jazirat Musheira, E of Umm an Nar channel. (PE)
18/3/88 2 off Jazirat Musheira and 3 in channel to Mussafah. (PE)
19/5/88 six groups of between 5 and 8 each seen on trip from Zirku to Bunduq oilfield, from helicopter. (CvR)
29/9/88 around 30 seen ahead of pilot boat near Zirku, plus 1 dead near loading buoys. (JADC)
Hump-backed Dolphin Sousa chinensis  
10/5/88 6 off Bahrani Island. (JNBB)
24/5/88 27 seen 1 mile W of Bahrani Island, plus 6 seen E of same Island, from helicopter. (CvR)
13/12/88 4 plus seen in channel off Ras al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi Island. (MvH, PH)

From the Local Press
Gordon's Wildcat

Three pairs, captive-bred in Dubai by Marijcke Jongbloed, have been sent to zoos in West and East Germany during 1988 in order to establish nuclei for captive-breeding programs in Europe. These, plus other pairs and young with MJ and in Dubai Zoo, are the only ones known in captivity. In mid-December, Marijcke's female was pregnant again, but new blood for the stock is urgently needed to avoid inbreeding. (Emirates News, 8/11/88)

Arabian Leopard

April 1988?: family of four said to have been trapped on Jebel Haqah overlooking Wadi Bih. Three shot, one escaped. No other reports during the year. (Khaleej Times, 9/6/88)

(On December 19, I was informed by a local resident of Wadi Asimah in the Hajjar Mountains (Ras al Khaimah Emirate) that none had been seen locally for several years, though he knew of their continued existence in the higher mountains near Wadi Bih.)

Leopard, Lynx, Hyena etc.

The following is reprinted from the Gulf News of 29/9/88. (For 'Bedouins' read Shihuh, for 'tiger' read leopard. The language of the report is otherwise unchanged.)

'Wild Animal Attacks Prevalent in RAK'

From our correspondent

Ras al Khaimah: The eastern mountains in the emirate still remain a safe haven for wild animals that constitute a danger to domesticated animals like goats, sheep and birds.

However efforts are on to kill the meat-eaters, and Bedouins of Brairat, Shimal, Sha'am and Ghalilah have devised means to kill such dangerous animals including the use of hawks, poison and traps.

Wild animal hunters of the emirate include Sheban Mohamed Ali Habsi, 53, and Rashid Mohamed bin Rashid.

Sheban told Gulf News that he had killed a tiger, a hyena, five lynxes, 26 deer and tens of foxes near Wadi Bih dam while Rashid has killed a tiger and two deer in just one day last year.

Tigers are being traded in. Rashid said he had sold a tiger last month for Dh3000.

The most recent lynx hunting, or as it is locally called 'harma', took place last month by Mohammed Ali Humoud, living in the Rashid residential area of Ras al Khaimah. He says tigers and wolves are rare, but hyenas and foxes are extensively found. Sheban, known for bravery in the area, has been assigned the duty of transporting students from the mountains to nearby school by Land Rover for more than 10 years now.

(The reports of the leopards brings to at least six the number killed or captured in the last two years - evidence both that there are more around than once thought and that they are seriously endangered. On the assumption that the reporter could translate accurately - I guess the hunters know what they are trapping - the story is also evidence of the continued existence of hyena and lynxes. A Liwa-based Bedouin informed me on 22-12 that no wolves or hyenas are left in that area, however.)

The populations of all these large carnivores are increasingly endangered. A first, and vital, step to protect them is to secure the support of the Rule and Crown Prince of Ras al Khaimah, which could pave the way for an educational campaign and, possibly, for a compensation program for dead livestock.

Another initial stop worth considering might be the trapping of some live specimens for the zoos in Dubai and Al Ain to create a captive breeding stock, a step suggested by our Patron. Ideas on how this might be achieved would be gratefully received.

ENHG Recorders: Bish Brown (JNBB), Adrian Chapman, Stephanie Darbyshire (SD), Gary Feulner (GRF), Peter Hellyer (PH), Stuart Hodgson (SH), Ros Mack, Yvette van Hauwe (YvH), Chris van Riet (CvR), Rob Western (RAW).

Peter Hellyer


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