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06 June 2023

Porcupines found in Fujairah

By Wam

Following on from last month’s announcement by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EAD, of the discovery of a species of porcupine in the Al Dhafra region of Abu Dhabi, it has now been announced that the elusive species is also present in the Wadi Wurrayah National Park, WWNP, in Fujairah.

A paper just published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa entitled ‘A first confirmed record of the Indian Crested Porcupine Hystrix indica in the United Arab Emirates’, reports that pictures of porcupines were taken at two locations in the park on three separate occasions in 2015 and 2016. The paper reports that "Long-term occupancy of porcupines was confirmed via social surveys conducted in four villages bordering WWNP. These findings represent a previously unrecorded and most likely isolated subpopulation of H. indica."

Prior to the publication of the paper, the presence of porcupines in the UAE was only known from the announcement by EAD last month that a live animal had been photographed by a camera trap in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region in December last year. The original EAD identification of the animal as a related species, Hystrix cristata, rather than Hystrix indica, is now believed to have been erroneous.

With the Wadi Wurrayah sightings dating to 2015 and 2016, these now stand as the first-recorded sightings in the UAE.

With a distribution throughout southwest and central Asia and in much of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the Indian Crested Porcupine is listed as being of ‘Least Concern’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The new and isolated records in the UAE may, however, qualify it to be listed as ‘Threatened’ at a national level.

The Fujairah discovery underlines the importance of the Wadi Wurrayah National Park in terms of the UAE’s wildlife. The rare Omani owl, Strix omanensis, was discovered in the UAE for the first time in the park in 2015, while since 2009 20 species of mammals, over 300 plant species and 25 of the UAE’s 30 species of dragonflies and damselfies have been recorded there.

Eng. Mohammed Saif Al Afkham, Director General of Fujairah Municipality, highlighted the importance of the discovery of the porcupine, which, he said, emphasised the importance of Wadi Wurrayah National Park, not just locally but also globally, as an internationally recognised Ramsar wetland site. It was also declared in July this year as the 2nd UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the UAE.

Al Afkham praised the efforts by the Municipality’s team in monitoring and studying the wildlife in the Park’s arid and rugged mountain environment.