Fascinating Creatures of Qatar

Qatar's deserts are subject to one of the harshest climates on Earth. For centuries, these deserts have tested humankind, with barely anyone being able to live in them for any extended period of time. The animals that inhabit these lands continuously beat humans in their ability to adapt. This article highlights five extraordinary animals that call the rocks and dunes of Qatar home.

Sand Snake

Growing to just over 1.5 meters long (almost two yards), the sand snake is one of the longer serpents of Qatar. This snake moves effortlessly through sand dunes to seek its prey, which consists of small mammals and lizards. The sand snake is venomous, but will not strike unless it is scared or startled. The sand snake is brown, and accented by black and white streaks.

Fork-Tongue Desert Monitor Lizard

This lizard, found throughout the Arabian Peninsula, should be given its space. Growing up to a metre long (just under a yard), the fork-tongue desert monitor lizard is known for its aggressiveness and devastating bite. This prehistoric reptile belongs to a phylogenetic tree that traces its roots to the dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period (over 65 million years ago).

Ethiopian Hedgehog

Contrary to its name, the Ethiopian hedgehog can be found hiding in rocky crevasses around Qatar. Despite its small, cuddly appearance, this rodent is anything but. With an armor of spikes complimenting its dauntless attitude, the Ethiopian hedgehog will fight even the most fearsome snakes that enter its domain, and then eat them for dinner - literally. (Being terrified of snakes, I think I could learn a thing or two about courage from the Ethiopian hedgehog.)

Arabian Gazelle aka Reem Gazelle

The Qatari Government is currently in the process of reintroducing the Arabian gazelle, which is near extinction, to its desert domain. The animal stands just over a metre tall (close to a yard) and can be identified by its thin frame, complimented by a pair of long, curved horns protruding from its forehead. The Arabian Gazelle was a favourite game animal of the 19th century.

Arabian Oryx

The Arabian oryx is the national symbol of Qatar. It is a large, mostly white animal with long, pointed horns. The oryx quenches its thirst by consuming the leaves of desert plants. However, the animal can survive for weeks without a drop of water. Even though the animal was classified as Extinct In Nature in 1972, a careful reintroduction program spearheaded by the Qatari Government (and similar reintroduction efforts in Saudi Arabia) has brought this ghost-like animal back to life in the Arabian Peninsula, and it is now noted on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)'s List of Threatened Species as vulnerable.

For more on wildlife in the Arabian Peninsula, see:

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