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