While Qatar's unforgiving landscape of gravel, rocks, and towering sand dunes give it the appearance of an infertile wasteland, something has survived. Deep below, protected from the blazing sun, lives a world that only emerges after dark. This diverse land of nocturnal brutes is what makes Qatar anything but boring. The following list highlights five of the more interesting creatures that inhabit the Qatari desert:
Horned Viper aka Sidewinder
This snake is the serpent to look out for whilst in Qatar. Emerging at night to feed on small mammals and lizards, the horned viper can be aggressive when threatened or startled. Its bite is not poisonous, but can be very painful and its venom can prevent a wound from clotting normally. The snake is easily recognizable by the way it moves about sideways in an S pattern. Luckily it is rare to see this type of snake.
Lesser Jerboa aka Kangaroo Rat
Resembling nothing more than a puff of fur with eyes, this mighty mouse survives on fear. Emerging at night to feed on seeds, shrubs, and insects, the lesser jerboa is a smart coward in the face of danger. When threatened by a larger predator, it will throw sand in the intruder's eyes before bounding more than 1 metre (approximately 1 yard) away using its elongated, kangaroo-like legs. That being said, it is more than often a favourite meal of desert predators.
Nocturnal Fox aka Rüppell’s Fox
Despite being one of the lesser-seen animals of Qatar, the nocturnal fox is a treat to those lucky enough to encounter it. Resembling a small coyote with large, bat-like ears and golden-brown eyes, the creature roams the dunes of southeastern Qatar. Closely related to other fox species in Qatar, the nocturnal fox is distinct due to its colossal ears, which help cool the animal. Although Qatari farmers consider it a pest, I think the animal appears majestic.
Probably the coolest animal residing in Qatar is the sand cat. It lives in sand caves, only to emerge in the evening to hunt for rodents, reptiles, and insects. The sand cat is specially adapted to dig deep into the sand for prey and to survive merely on the liquids extracted from eating them. The only time this cat congregates with other felines is during mating season; the rest of the time it lives in isolation. This is bad news for those of us hoping to befriend them.
Jayaka’s Sand Boa
This dark serpent is one of Qatar's only non-venomous snakes. However, despite lacking the ability to poison its prey, it is a champion at wrestling. Waiting just below the sand, the Jayaka's sand boa will erupt and strangle its victim! But not to worry, this snake usually only grows to a length of 60cm (about two feet).
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