Did you Know?
  • The Ghaf tree (Prosopis cineraria) is extremely drought resistant and its roots can go down to 30 metres, enabling it to reach the water table in the DDCR

Camera Trap Survey in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Husam El Algamy & Greg Simkins

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, P.O. Box 7631, Dubai, U.A.E. greg.simkins@emirates.com

In order to achieve the aim conserving the natural resources of Dubai's inland desert and to restore the natural fauna and florato its original bio-diversity it was decide to carry out a number of surveys to asses the current situation. In particular very little was known about species belonging to the order Carnivora so the following questions were asked:

  • What wild carnivore species are to be found in the DDCR?
  • What is the distribution of these species?
  • What is the population size of these species?
  • Are there any feral species and where are they concentrated?

It was decided that the best method to answer these questions was to utilize camera traps. Camera traps have the advantage of detecting, with equal efficiency, nocturnal and diurnal activities while having minimal environmental disturbance. In addition to animal detection, camera traps can provide additional information about patterns of activity and habitat use.

The main focus of the survey was to assess the presence and distribution of the following species: Gordon's wild cat (Felis silvestris gordoni); Sand cat (Felis margarita); Caracal (Felis caracal schmitzi); Arabian red fox (Vulpes vulpes arabica); Sand fox (Vulpes ruepelli). In order to attract these species the camera traps were baited with meat on a regular basis.

Sampling was done over a period of 1029 active camera days at seven sites over the study area of the DDCR. These sites were representative of most habitats and vegetation cover types present in the DDCR and resulted in 1991 pictures. The pictures are classified in to four categories: 1) Test; 2) Empty; 3) Malfunction; 4) Live. A total of 1286 (64.59%) were classified as "Live" pictures and were then sorted as follows: a) Wild mammals; b) Wild birds; c) Grazing livestock; d) Feral mammals, before being used for further analysis.

Mammal fauna of the Dubai inland desert have been badly impacted by decades of unsustainable utilization of the desert habitat with un-controlled access for different activities such as livestock grazing and off-road driving. This has been shown in the results with only two of the target species being recorded and it can be concluded with confidence that species such as the Sand cat, Caracal and Sand fox are absent from the DDCR. The Arabian red fox and Gordon's wildcat are the only remaining small to medium sized predatory mammals left in the reserve. While the Arabian red fox population is relatively abundant the Gordon's wildcat population is suppressed and could be classified as threatened within the area. The main reason for the pressure on the wildcat population is through competition with feral cats which compete for food resource and territory and at the same time threaten the genetic integrity of the species by hybridization.

This survey has shown that the diversity of predatory mammals within the DDCR is critically low and that serious conservation measure are required to protect the remaining species as well as focusing on the potential re-introduction programs for both Sand fox and Sand cat in the near future.