The Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, EAD, the largest environmental regulator in the Middle East, has recorded the sighting of the Arabian Caracal (Caracal schmitzi) on Jebel Hafeet National Park in Al Ain earlier this month.
The medium-sized, sand-coloured cat with characteristically elongated, tufted black ears was last seen in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 1984.
Footage of the Caracal, called Al Washaq in Arabic, was captured on a remote camera from a network of over 45 cameras operated by EAD as part of its long-term monitoring programme of important and threatened species within critical habitats and protected areas across Abu Dhabi.
While the Caracal is generally considered to be nocturnal in nature, EAD was able to obtain both day-time and night-time photographic records of a male Caracal; the species is known to hunt birds, rodents and small mammals under the sun during colder seasons and may survive without drinking for long periods.
"The conservation of Abu Dhabi’s local biodiversity and protected areas has always been a key priority for the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi," said Dr. Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, Acting Secretary-General at EAD. "The rediscovery of the Arabian Caracal in Abu Dhabi highlights not only the importance of the preservation of vital habitats in the emirate, but also sheds light on the advanced research tools and methods we apply to learn more about our environment and all that it encompasses.
The agency, she said, will continue its efforts in maintaining and monitoring local wildlife and natural ecosystems "that will help to preserve the environment for future generations, and invite the public to join us in this endeavour."
While the Caracal is widely distributed throughout the region (typically in mountainous areas), individuals present on the Arabian Peninsula are becoming increasingly rare due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction. Given the lack of any previous records of the species in the recent past, it was even considered ‘Extinct in the Wild’. As a follow-up, EAD will intensify its monitoring to determine the population size of the Caracal in the area.
The only mountain in Abu Dhabi, Jebel Hafeet is home to diverse local flora and fauna due to its high elevation. It was declared a National Park in 2017 and was also incorporated as part of the Sheikh Zayed Network of Protected Areas in 2018. EAD’s work in the management and conservation of protected areas such as Jebel Hafeet supports the Agency in improving the status of rare species such as the Arabian Caracal that are found there.