Mar 1

Vast plains and towering mountain ranges, colourful coral reefs and windswept desert sands. These are mere glimpses of the natural wonders found in the United Arab Emirates.

With its rich biodiversity and breathtaking vistas, the UAE and its emirates such as Abu Dhabi safeguard these natural treasures with keen interest. Abu Dhabi in particular has a strong focus on wildlife conservation, making contributions to some prominent environmental success stories.

Coinciding with the new BBC series Wild Arabia, ARKive Geographic is booking a (virtual) trip to the UAE and taking a closer look at the stunning native fauna that call this place home!

Gentle giant

Photo of whale shark

Is it a whale or is it a shark? The whale shark may look like a whale, but it is actually the world’s largest fish at up to 12 metres in length. An ocean wanderer, the whale shark is known to travel huge distances and researchers have followed individuals for thousands of kilometers across the seas.

Powerful predator

Photo of Arabian leopard

Although the Arabian leopard may be the smallest leopard subspecies, it is actually the largest of all Arabian cats. An effective hunter, its darkly spotted coat provides excellent camouflage in rocky terrains, allowing it to hide in plain sight. While the Arabian leopard is currently considered Critically Endangered, captive breeding programs in the UAE have produced several cubs in recent years.

Arid amphibian 

Photo of Dhofar toad

Isn’t it remarkable that the Dhofar toad is one of only two toad species in the entire UAE? While there may not be many other amphibians in this area, the Dhofar toad does have some unusual characteristics, including a sticky, prehensile tongue and very large eyes. Perhaps most interesting of all is that in times of drought, the Dhofar toad buries itself underground for self-preservation and emerges after a substantial rainfall.

 Success story

Photo of Arabian oryx

The Arabian oryx is a proud conservation success story in the UAE. Once Extinct in the Wild, this desert antelope was reintroduced into its habitat with the help of captive breeding programs. Wild populations now thrive and are slowly increasing in number. When this oryx stands in profile, its rigidly straight horns appear to become one, making it look like the mythical unicorn.

Venomous viper

Photo of sind saw-scaled viper

Though small, the sind saw-scaled viper’s quick strike and sharp fangs make it quite dangerous. While most snakes ward off potential predators with a hiss from the mouth, this particular species can create a hissing sound by winding its body around in C-shaped coils and rubbing its scales in opposite directions against one another. Part of a fascinating group snakes, the sind saw-scaled viper is viviparous which means it gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs.

Stately soarer

Photo of saker falcon

The saker falcon is a graceful bird and a skillful hunter. Known for its variable plumage, this species ranges in colour from a fairly uniform chocolate brown to a pale sandy colour with brown bars or streaks, to almost pure white individuals. No stranger to a challenge, the saker falcon dives at up to 200 miles per hour and can often be observed taking down prey much larger than itself!

This is just a small sample of the unique species that abound in the United Arab Emirates. Why not explore hundreds more species on ARKive’s Jewels of the UAE? It would be hard to pick a favorite but if you had to, which would it be? Tell us in the comments or chat with us on Facebook or Twitter!

Andrea Small, Education and Outreach Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Feb 21

“For centuries, an exotic but forbidden land has captured our imagination…Now, for the first time, we can explore this place of myth and legend.”

Sand dune habitat of the common sandfish

Much of Arabia is covered by vast deserts with towering sand dunes

Promising a land of magic and surprise, the BBC is launching its new three-part nature documentary series, ‘Wild Arabia’, this Friday. The series will explore the awe-inspiring deserts of Arabia, travelling across the peninsula and filming in extreme conditions to bring us a collection of stunning time-lapses, wildlife encounters and insights into the lives of the Arabian people.

We can expect to see Bedouin nomads, sand storms, festivals and camel races, but most exciting for us in the ARKive office will be the spectacular array of wildlife.

Male Arabian leopard

For the first time, the private life of the elusive Arabian leopard has been caught on camera

Perhaps most anticipated is the up-close and personal glimpse into the life of the Critically Endangered Arabian leopard, one of the most secretive predators in the world. A close second is striking footage of a nimble lesser Egyptian jerboa narrowly outmanoeuvring a desert fox. Be prepared for slow motion and drama in this sequence!

Arabian oryx males fighting

Arabian oryx were once extinct in the wild

Other stars of the show will include the magnificent Arabian oryx, the fearless striped hyaena and the formidable Arabian fat-tailed scorpion, which takes on a mysterious appearance under UV light. The Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard that changes colour with temperature will also make an appearance, as will the honey badger, a brave raider of honey bee nests. Moving into the ocean, we will see favourites such as migratory green turtles, and gentle whale sharks.

Whale shark filter feeding, surrounded by other smaller fish

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world

As well as exploring the characteristic sand dunes and date palm oases, we will also be taken deep underground to find the mystifying source of oasis water in Oman, into the heart of cloud forests, and high into the Dhofar Mountains.

Rüppell’s fox, front view

Rüppell’s fox is small and elusive

We hope you are eagerly anticipating this new series just as much as we are. In-depth information on many of the species expected to feature can be found here on ARKive, and for a peek at the many habitats and species that parts of Arabia have to offer, check out our Jewels of the UAE topic page.

If the beautiful Arabian oryx caught your attention, watch this video on its conservation on ARKive’s YouTube Channel, also featuring the scimitar-horned oryx which is classified as Extinct in the Wild.

Sneak previews, an episode guide and (some humorous) behind the scenes stories from the series can be found on the BBC Wild Arabia page.

Kaz Armour, ARKive Text Author

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