Dragonfly species thought extinct found in UAE wadi

Insect was last seen in Oman more than 50 years ago, experts say.

The urothemis thomasi dragonfly. Courtesy Emirates Wildlife Society

A species of dragonfly once thought to be extinct has been seen in the UAE for the first time.

The urothemis thomasi dragonfly was found in Wadi Wurayah National Park, Fujairah, by the ecologist and wadi research consultant Dr Jacky Judas.

Dr Judas discovered the specimen while taking photographs of the wadi's native dragonflies. One of his photos showed a unfamiliar species with cross-veins on its lower wing.

After checking with an expert at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Dr Judas revealed the dragonfly was a male urothemis thomasi.

The species had previously been recorded only at eight sites in Oman and has not been seen anywhere since 1957, according to the IUCN.

An ischnura nursei, a small colourful damselfly found in Pakistan, India and Iran, has also been spotted for the first time in the UAE, at another site in Fujairah.

"These latest exciting discoveries give further evidence that Wadi Wurayah is an exceptional site for wildlife. It is vital to conserve this rich area in order to protect the unique species which rely on it for survival," said Mohammed Al Afkham, of Fujairah Municipality.

"As we move into establishing Wadi Wurayah National Park, this news yet again confirms that this area remains a stronghold for wildlife in the UAE," said Ida Tillisch, director general of the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with WWF.

Wadi Wurayah became the UAE's first Mountain Protected Area by a decree from Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed. Thirty species have been identified in the wadi, including 21 of the UAE's 30 recorded dragonfly and damselfly species.