There are some very rare and extraordinary wildlife waiting to be discovered in Qatar. Here are four fascinating and unique animals that have beaten the odds to inhabit the small Gulf Peninsula’s desert and waters.
The majestic falcon is a national treasure in Qatar and no visit is complete without seeing one. This bird of prey is considered incredibly important in Qatari culture and can often be seen perched on the wrists of Qataris as a symbol of nobility, wealth and status.
Falcons have been revered in Qatar for many centuries and were traditionally deployed by Bedouins to catch smaller birds and hares for their masters.
A testament to their reverence and popularity can be found in the form of Doha’s government-subsidised Falcon Hospital, which tends to over 10,000 birds during the hunting season: clipping talons, examining feathers, taking avian X-rays and providing specialist massage for tired wings.
Venture to the Falcon Souq and you’ll see that falcons are more than just a pet or pastime – they’re a national obsession. At the souq you can marvel at this majestic bird as prospective buyers clamber to buy the best breed for hunting and racing. At peak hunting season (September to March) over a hundred birds can be sold, with prices ranging from £2,000 to over £200,000.
birds can be found in the Falcon Hospital during the hunting season
largest population of dugongs are found in Qatar after Australia
Also known as a ‘sea cow’ the dugong is a rare mammal that can be found in the Qatari sea. These impressive creatures can live for over 70 years, which is partly due to their vegetarian diet. Dugongs feed on seagrass at the bottom of the sea and are able to avoid predators by remaining in deep water.
However, with a low reproductive output, they have been listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
After Australia, Qatar has the largest population of dugongs in the world, but little is known of these secretive creatures who remain incredibly shy and rarely venture to the ocean’s surface.
The Arabian Gazelle
The beautiful Arabian gazelle is incredibly rare and close to extinction, so only a lucky few will be able to spot one in Qatar. Also known as ‘reem’, the Arabian gazelle is the only native gazelle species to Qatar.
Measuring at just over one metre tall, the slender gazelle stands proud with a thin frame and long curved horns. Its build makes the gazelle apt at running and most can easily reach up to speeds of 80 km per hour. This majestic animal is also able to quickly find food and identify predators due to their excelled hearing, vision and sense of smell.
The gazelle was once a favourite game animal back in the 19th Century. Things haven’t changed a great deal since then and due to excessive hunting and poaching they are now on the brink of extinction. However, wildlife organisations, along with the support of the Qatari government, have worked hard to successfully reintroduce the gazelle back to its desert environment.
The speed Arabian gazelles can reach. They have excellent vision, hearing, and a good sense of smell to help detect predators and to find food
The Arabian Oryx
the temperature the desert can reach in the summer
The Arabian oryx is considered to be the national symbol of Qatar whose residents are incredibly proud of this extraordinary animal. It is also the national animal for other Arab countries including Oman, Jordan and Bahrain and is even found on the logo of Qatari airline Qatar Airways.
Despite living in the difficult Qatari desert, the oryx is able to survive for weeks without any water and can quench their thirst through the consumption of desert plants. In fact, it thrives in the harsh desert environment, where temperatures can reach up to 50ºC in the summers.
This is largely down to its bright white coat that reflects the sun’s rays, keeping them cool, and their broad hooves with a large surface area, which allows them to walk with relative ease on the sand. Although not a speedster, the Arabian oryx is known to walk quite long distances of over 70 km.
Like the gazelle, the oryx is near extinction. In fact in 1972 it was classified as Extinct in Nature. However, through a careful reintroduction programme and conservation efforts, endorsed by the Qatari government, the oryx were slowly reintroduced into the wild. This changed their status from ‘extinct’ to ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List
There are now over 1,000 wild oryx roaming free in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Coordinating Committee for the Conservation of the Arabian Oryx oversees the conservation efforts for this species.
If you would like to catch a glimpse of this rare beauty you can arrange a visit to the Qatar Oryx Farm, which was designed to protect the species and save it from extinction.
PHOTOS: Cover – Jamie Squire/Gettyimages, 1 – Esherez/Shutterstock, 2 – Abdelrahman Hassanein/Sutterstock, 3 – Ded pixto/Sutterstock, 4 – Colors and shapes of underwater world/Gettyimages, 5 – Kertu/Shutterstock, 6 – Kertu_ee/Getty images, 7 – Andrew Ring/Shutterstock, 8 – Vedran Strelar/Shutterstock