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Arabian caracal spotted in Musandam for first time

8 Oct 2023 Arabian caracal spotted in Musandam for first time By OUR CORRESPONDENT

Muscat – For the first time, the rare Arabian caracal – a wildcat species -has been spotted in Musandam’s western mountain range, thanks to the combined efforts of the Environment Authority’s National Biodiversity Survey Project team and the Environment Department in Musandam governorate.

Trap cameras at an elevation of roughly 509 metres confirmed the presence of this elusive predator, an official said.

Native to the Hajar and Dhofar mountains, North Africa and the Middle East’s arid zones, the Arabian caracal feeds on small mammals, birds, and reptiles, allowing it to endure in extreme climates. Its dwindling numbers serve as a concerning barometer for the deteriorating conditions of these dry environments.

This critical monitoring effort in Musandam, a pioneering endeavour of its kind, focuses on the region’s biodiversity. It also emphasises the importance of recording and understanding wildlife, paving the way for informed conservation measures, EA stated.

Predators such as the Arabian caracal play a pivotal role in maintaining the balance in the ecosystem. They maintain the prey population at sustainable levels and target the weaker members, ensuring that only the most resilient genes are passed down, fortifying the prey against adverse weather conditions and diseases.

In a dedicated effort to understand this species better, 45 trap cameras were strategically placed across Musandam in March, aligned with global biodiversity survey techniques.

The caracal is found across Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, and India, with its dominant presence in the Arabian Peninsula’s rocky terrains. Despite its diverse habitats, this wildcat faces existential threats.

Its name derives from the Turkish ‘karakulak’ (black ear) that suggests presence of distinctive tufted ears, often drawing comparisons to a lynx.

The caracal’s agility enables it to chase down varied prey, from hares to antelopes.

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