Bulletin 40 - March 1990: Reptile Recorder's Report for 1989

Reptile Recorder's Report for 1989

The good news for reptiles during the year was the Order protecting all turtles, their eggs and their nesting sites. Unfortunately, issuing the Order and ensuring its enforcement are two totally different tasks. Still, unto the end of December, we were receiving video films and photographs of mutilated turtles left to die a slow death on the beaches around Dibba. The death of a Leathery Turtle Dermochelys coriacea was widely reported in the local press.

On Qarnein Island, where a few Green Turtles Chelonia mydas are known to breed, many of the first batches of eggs were taken by fishermen from Abu Dhabi. It is hoped that now the Island is being turned into a sanctuary for wildlife by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed al Nahyan this practice will be controlled.

A different story was the rescue of a number of Hawksbill Turtles Eretmochelys imbricata on Das Island when they became trapped in a sea water supply basin. This was the first positive identification of the species in UAE waters.

As with other recorders, much of the information collected was self-generated. This could be due to a lack of proper instructions about the information required or difficulty in identifying species. It is a problem we should tackle as early as possible in 1990.

Two local species of large lizard are on the IUCN list of endangered species. They are the Desert Monitor Varanus griseus or "wirral" in Arabic. Growing to a length of almost one meter, it is an impressive animal. Unfortunately, more were found dead, mostly road casualties, than were seen alive last year. The other is the Spiny-tailed Agamid Uromastyx microlepsis or "dhub" in Arabic. This large vegetarian lizard seems to be suffering from a depletion of its food plants, due to an increase in domestic animal foraging. If special areas are not set aside for it, it may well disappear in a few years' time.

On a trip to Sir Bani Yas, we saw a number of dead snakes killed on the island. To date one specimen has not been positively identified. It is now on its way to the Vienna Museum of Natural History for scale counts and scientific identification. 50 other snakes of six species have also been sent. Also on the same island we saw specimens of a small climbing gecko, Turkish House Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus.

Many of the smaller desert reptiles suffered loss of habitat for the second year running due to heavy rain. Large areas of the Shwaib/Madam plain were washed away when the dam wall was breached. It may take some years for populations to recover.

I am very grateful to Abdulla, Omar and everyone else working in Shah, Asab, Bu Hasa and Jebel Dhanna, who have sent in live and dead specimens form those areas. Special thanks also to Caroline Lehmann, Dr. Marijcke Jongbloed and other members of the DNHG who have supplied not only reptile specimens but also birds, bats, foxes and insects.

Bish Brown


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