United Arab Emirates

Arabian Gazelle, Gazella arabica 

I first visited the UAE  in 2007, for a 24 hour layover in Dubai. My  only attempt at mammal watching was a trip to the desert at night in a Humvee which I managed to get bogged within three minutes. I didn’t find any Jerboas but I did eventually find a helpful camel herder with a quad bike to help dig me out.

I returned in February 2017 for 5 days work, and squeezed in some mammal time. In February 2019 I spent a night in the mountains around Fujarah.

Abu Dhabi

Jebel Hafeet

Jebel Hafeet (Al Ain)

Paul Carter gave me a hot – well luke warm – tip for a site for the rare Arabian Tahr and, after a few hours of scanning around the Mercure Hotel, I saw a pair of animals on a distant ridge just before sunset. More details in the trip report below.

Arabian Tahr, Arabitragus jayakari


Arabian Oryx, Oryx leucoryx. Semi-domesticated at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.

Desert Conservation Reserve

Arabian Jird, Meriones arimalius

I spent a couple of hours here one morning on a tour of the reserve (thank you Tamer Khafaga) and saw many of the semi-domesticated Arabian Oryx, several of the wild Arabian Gazelles (Gazella arabica) and a couple of  Arabian Sand Gazelles (Gazella marica).

I left some traps out overnight and returned well before dawn the next morning. An hour’s spotlighting along the main road produced three species, all of which were lifers for me: an Arabian Jird, dozens of Cheesman’s Gerbils plus a Baluchistan Gerbil or two.

Cheesman’s Gerbil, Gerbilus cheesmani

My traps did well and I caught  about 15 Cheesman’s Gerbil, two Baluchistan Gerbils and an Arabian Jird.

Baluchistan Gerbil, Gerbilus nanus


Arabian Eagle Owl

In February 2019 I spent an evening looking for Blandford’s Foxes with Jacky Judas. Jacky, who occasionally acts a bird and mammal guide, works for WWF and knows a great deal about all the wildlife in the Emirates. He’s also a very nice guy but you need to arrange a trip with him well in advance. I’d asked him if we could look for Blandford’s Foxes: a species he found for Mark Hows in 2018 and which I wanted better views of.

We focused on the mountains between Masafi and Khor Fakkan inside two concentric enclaves like a target: you drive into a small chunk of Oman (surrounded by the UAE) and then back into the UAE in the middle, about 2 hours from Dubai City. The roads are good, and there are no hard border crossings so no permits seem to be needed. Jacky said the people there are friendly and there is no problem with spotlghting either. The main problem that night was the weather, which was an unusually cool 16C and windy. We saw at least 4 Red Foxes and one or two others that I wasn’t sure about. But no obvious Blandford’s. A couple of feral cats and what was probably a Black Rat in a tree, that I saw only with a thermal scope, made up the night’s mammals. The highlight was a little known Arabian Eagle Owl.

Community Reports

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, 2024: Ralf Bürglin’s report of a week’s citizen science trip with mammals including Arabian & Sand Gazelles and Cheesman’s & Baluchistan Gerbils.

Dubai, 2024: Stuart Chapman, 1 day & 5 species including Arabian and Sand Gazelles.

United Arab Emirates, 2022: Ralf Bürglin, 1 week and several species including great views of Arabian Tahr, Aoudad and Wild Cat.

United Arab Emirates, 2021: Charles Hood & Mike Richardson, 3 days & 4 species including Arabian Tahr.

United Arab Emirates, 2018: Mark Hows, 1 day & several species including Blandford’s Fox.

Oman and the UAE, 2018: Dominique Brugiere, 3 weeks & around 15 species including Arabian Thar, Arabian Gazelle and -after much effort – a Blanford’s Fox.

Dubai & Abu Dhabi, 2017: Jon Hall, a couple of days & 6 species including Baluchistan GerbilsArabian Jirds and Arabian Tahrs.

United Arab Emirates, 2017: Vladimir Dinets, 3 days and mammals including Arabian Tahr and Botta’s Serotine.

Oman and Dubai, 2016: Remco Hofland, 11 days (mainly birding) & 9 species in Oman including False Killer Whale and Africa Wild Cat, and 2 species in Dubai (Cape Hare and Sand Gazelle).

Dubai & Southern Africa, 2012: Bob Berghaier, 1 week and an interesting report with the highlights including Oryx, Arabian and Sand Gazelles in Dubai, and a Honey Badger in Chobe (Botswana).

Also See

Sand or Arabian Gazelle: ID required? March 2022


The UAE interact site has information on most of the terrestrial mammal species found in the Emirates.

1 Comment

  • Tamer

    The bedouin with a quad bike, is most probably a camel herder from one of the central asian countries (Bengal, Pakistan or India). his job is to take care of the camels overgrazing the desert 😉


Leave a Reply