Arabian caracal spotted for first time in Abu Dhabi in 35 years

The cat is becoming increasingly rare due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction, the emirate's environment agency said

The Arabian caracal was captured by day and night in Jebel Hafeet National Park. Courtesy: EAD
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An elusive hunting cat has been spotted in the emirate of Abu Dhabi for the first time in 35 years.

The Arabian caracal was captured on a remote camera operated by the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) in Jebel Hafeet National Park in Al Ain.

The medium-sized, sand-coloured animal with characteristically elongated, tufted black ears – the origin of its name is karakulak, Turkish for "black ear" –was last seen in the emirate in 1984.

The male was recorded in both daytime and nighttime earlier this month from a network of 45 cameras operated by the agency.

The caracal is known to hunt birds, rodents and small mammals under the sun during colder seasons and may survive without drinking for long periods.

There have been reported sightings in other emirates – one was even reportedly shot in Ras Al Khaimah while trying to attack a man in 2010.

“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," said Dr Shaikha Salem Al Dhaheri, acting secretary general at the EAD.

"The agency 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."

The environment agency captured daytime and nighttime footage of the creature for the first time since 1984. Courtesy: EAD
The environment agency captured daytime and nighttime footage of the creature for the first time since 1984. Courtesy: EAD

The EAD said the caracal is becoming increasingly rare in the Arabian Peninsula due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction. It was even considered "extinct in the wild" at one stage, the agency said.

Wildlife experts will now intensify monitoring to determine the population size of the caracal in the area.

As The National reported in December, about 700 exotic animals including 10 caracals were shipped from Ukraine to the region for sale to private collectors, including in Bahrain and the UAE.

The country's authorities are looking into the case and said they are "strongly committed to tightening controls on the movement and trade of endangered species through its airports, roads and seaports".