Oman’s landscape is a haven for some of the world’s rarest creatures, says Alvin Thomas, and they won’t be leaving anytime soon. Here are the top 10 creatures that share space with us in the Sultanate.
Ask a person why they love Oman and they’ll tell you about how charmingly mysterious yet striking the mountains are, how sociable the people in the cities are, and why living in any city in the Sultanate is far more satisfying than, say, living in a metropolitan area such as Dubai or Mumbai. It’s just a fact!
What most people won’t tell you – most likely because they’re completely oblivious to it – is how exclusive the fauna in the region is.
In short, Oman is home to several animals, birds, and insects that you just don’t get to see anywhere else in the world – or for that matter, anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula. As per recent findings, there are upwards of 500 species of birds, 64 types of reptiles, and also rich marine biodiversity.
Here at Y – after much time researching in wadis, caves, beaches, and the mountains in Al Hajar – we narrow down 10 wildlife species that we can proudly call Oman’s own.
1) “Fahad” – Arabian Leopard
Not many people have been blessed with having witnessed an Arabian Leopard but those who have speak about the majestic animal in length. Sadly, only 200 of these animals now live in the mountains of Dhofar – and it has been listed as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List; meaning, it’s close to extinction.
2) Oman Garra
This ray-finned fish is found in the mountains of northern Oman. However, it can also be discovered in parts of the UAE. One species of the Oman Garra is known to be blind, and live in underground caves. The reason for its lack of sight and pigmentation is the absence of light.
3) “Maha” – Arabian Oryx
The Arabian Oryx isn’t exclusive to Oman but its natural habitat is known to be the plains of Muscat and Dhofar. It’s also the national animal of The Sultanate, UAE, Qatar, Jordan, and Bahrain. The once-endangered species is now returning in healthy numbers and is now considered to be one of the prized possessions of Arabia. You can see the oryx in all its glory at the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in the Governorate of Al Wusta, which was once considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
4) “Gazal” – Mountain Gazelle
It’s highly unlikely that you would ever get to see a Mountain Gazelle. The species is currently endangered, and resides in the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary. It can be distinguished by its curled yet long horns, and pale complexion. Sadly, these animals also have a life span of just eight to 15 years.
5) “Washak” – Caracal
To put it plainly, this isn’t your average domestic cat. It can – and it will – attack you if you’re seen as a threat. The Caracal, or the Desert Lynx, is distinguished by its long black tufts on the back of its ears, and it is known to reside in areas with some cover. So, wadis with a bit of flora would be its preferred hunting grounds.
6) “Bagh Bagha” – Rose-ringed Parakeet
This species of parakeet is most found in Oman, rather than other GCC countries. The Rose-ringed Parakeet was introduced in Oman, and has been in the country ever since. The numbers are steadily growing too, and people are known to domesticate the bird. If taught at the right age, the bird can speak too. There’s a tree in Muttrah, nearby the Indian School al Jibroo, that has several parakeets (with numbers in the whereabouts of 100) living in it.
7) Salalah Guitarfish
Endemic to Oman, the Salalah Guitarfish is a species of rays in the Rhinobatidae family. Its natural habitat is the open seas, and is commonly found in the northern seas surrounding Oman. Sadly, it’s now a Near Threatened species in the IUCN Red List.
8) Omani Gecko
This newly-recognised species of gecko is commonly found in the deserts of Al Sharqiyah. It’s characterised morphologically by its small size, snout shape, webbing between fingers, short limbs, and scalation.
9) Arabian Humpback Whale
Humpback whales aren’t exclusive to the Sultanate but the Arabian Humpback Whale sure doesn’t seem like it wants to leave the waters of Oman. It can be found just off the coast of Dhofar, and is one of the non-migratory population of whales in the world. Because of that, it’s also Critically Endangered, and could soon be extinct.
10) Dhofar Toad
The Dhofar toad, or the Oman toad, is found in areas in subtropical or tropical dry shrublands such as the wadis in and around the Dhofar region. While it’s one of the only few species of toad in Oman, it can be quite hard to distinguish as it can have variable appearances; being greenish or brown, and either uniformly coloured or mottled and speckled with markings.