It may be hard for most travellers to believe that Dubai is the home to spectacular wildlife. You will be amazed by the fact that the Arabian Peninsula has always been rich in variety of desert animals, birds and fantastic fauna that it nurtures. If you are interested in exploring the wildlife of the United Arab Emirates, this article will tell you more about What Animals Live in Dubai and where to find them.
What Makes Dubai’s Desert Animals So Unique?
The United Arab Emirates is a part of the Arabian Peninsula blessed with a long stretch of coastline along the Persian Gulf. At the same time, UAE features an expansive sandy area covering most of its landscape. This juxtaposition has actually designed a unique ecosystem for UAE to support exceptionally well-adopted flora and fauna.
Rare Animals That You Can See in Dubai
The indigenous desert animals of Dubai can’t be spotted anywhere else in the world. That’s why we insist you explore the enriched wildlife of Dubai and its desert habitat to catch glimpse of some exotic creatures.
Here are the most exotic animals from Dubai’s landscape and where you can spot them.
1. Arabian Oryx (Al Maha in Arabic)
The Arabian Oryx is the national animal of UAE. Arabian Oryx belong to one of the largest antelope families, Bovidae. This small desert animal is known for a pair of long and straight horns in a distinctive shoulder bump. Their white coat colour is made of shiny hairs which stretch to their legs turning brown.
The Arabian Oryx is a herbivore and feeds on small plants, fruits, roots and buds.
These majestic animals were almost on the verge of extinction until an intensive captive breeding program was introduced by Sheikh Zayed to save this endangered species of UAE. Reintroduction of natural habitats also helped Arabian Oryx to avoid extinction.
Right now, Arabian Oryx sightings are very common at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. You can also find a hoard of these beautiful animals near Bab Al Shams making statements with their regal appearances against the golden sands. Winter is the best time to spot Arabian Oryx.
The skin of an adult oryx helps reflect the sunlight. The newborn calves with sand-coloured coat can camouflage easily to fool the predators.
Places to Spot Arabian Oryx
- Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Dubai Al Ain Road, Dubai.
- Bab Al Shams, Al Qudra Road, Dubai.
2. Arabian Sand Gazelle
After the Oryx, it’s the Arabian Sand Gazelles that dominate the desert wildlife scene in Dubai. This animal is found in great numbers across the Arabian and Syrian deserts. Although Arabian Sand Gazelle have reduced to a few hundred you can still spot them in some parts of the UAE, Turkey Oman and a few other countries.
Gazelle, the graceful desert animal of Dubai desert, comes in two varieties – the Mountain Gazelle and the Arabian Sand Gazelle. The first one primarily lives on the slopes of mountains whereas latter sticks to plains. Female gazelles are mostly hornless unlike their male versions.
Arabian Sand Gazelle population has been increased successfully over the past two decades by reintroducing them into the wild. This species is still in the list of international endangered animals.
Places to Spot Arabian Sand Gazelle
Arabian Sand Gazelles are hard to spot as they inhabit a few particular areas of UAE. You can watch them at Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, Saih Al Salaam, Al Marmoom, Al Qudra, Dubai.
3. Arabian Wolf
Another prominent desert animal seen in and around Dubai desert is the Arabian Wolf. Bearing the scientific name of Canis lupus arabs, this animal is a close relative to Grey Wolf family.
The Arabian Wolf was once one of the most commonly spotted animals across the Arabian Peninsula. However, they’re becoming endangered and can be spotted only in small pockets of Jordan, Souther Israel, Iraq, Oman and the UAE.
Arabian Wolves bear a set of strong features that tells how successfully they have adapted themselves to desert environment. These wolves grow up to 26 inches in height and weigh around 20 kilograms. These long eared wolves prefer to live and hunt in large packs rather than in small pairs.
The Arabian Wolf are omnivorous and they can survive on carrion and garbage when there’s a shortage of small animals like cats, rodents, hares and goats. Due to indiscriminate killing by the farmers and Bedouins to protect their live stocks, the Arabian Wolves are now a protected species.
The Arabian Wolves don’t howl. Their long ears help disperse body heat. Long hairs on their back safeguards them against solar radiation. They don’t have sweat glands and keep their cool by rapid panting.
Where to see Arabian Wolves
- Sharjah Desert Park & Arabian Wildlife Centre
- During Dubai Desert Safari
4. Arabian Leopard
The most majestic wild beast from the Arabian Peninsula is none other than the Arabian Leopard. If we take the scientific name of this species, then we have to call it the Panthera pardus nimr. Arabian leopards are known for their smaller size and extremely beautiful furry skin.
The Arabian Leopard prefers to live in rugged mountain terrains with a nearby permanent water source. They need large territories to secure enough food and water to survive the arid landscapes. This nocturnal animal hunts at night and feeds on hare, Gazelle, Rodents and Hyrax.
Presently, the Arabian leopard population in UAE is frighteningly low and fragmented too. This species is classified as Critically Endangered as per the IUCN Red List. The population of the Arabian Leopards is believed to be less than 200 across the globe. No wonder why it is so very hard to have a glimpse of this rare species in the UAE.
Places to Spot Arabian Leopards
Sightings of the Arabian Leopard have been reported at Al Hajar Mountains, Wadi Wurayah and Jebel Hafeet.
5. Spiny Tailed Lizard
Desert landscapes are often rife with a wide variety of reptiles. The expansive land of dry and arid desert area of Dubai is similarly a safe abode to lizards and geckos. The Spiny Tailed Lizard, locally known as Dhub, is the most prevalent and highly adopted desert animal found in Dubai.
These creepy animals earned both the name and fame for their spiny tails. The tail is the most effective defence system they have got. Spiny Tailed Lizards are endemic to Oman and UAE. They are primarily herbivorous but can feed on insects and small animals occasionally. This lizard species is blessed with tremendous survival instincts and can live for months on very little vegetation.
Spiny Tailed Lizards change body colour depending on the time of the day. In the morning, they flaunt dark grey colour to absorb more sun rays to heat up the body. During the daytime, skin colour changes to light beige to reflect the sunray to avoid overheating.
Places to See Spiny Tailed Lizards
- Al Ain Zoo
- Ras Al Khaimah
- Hajar Mountains
6. Sand Cat
Deserts of the UAE are the home to one of the most elusive little feline species, Sand Cats. If you are a cat-lover, these furry little creatures are going to melt your heart with their beautiful coat and cute facial features.
The Arabian Sand Cat looks more or less like a common house cat with almost the same body size. But if you take a closer look, you can notice their unusually large ears, wide face and several dark bands on their legs.
The Sand Cat or Felis margarita is one of the only cat species that adapted for desert life. Their sight is most sharp at night and that’s the time when they hunt for prey. This cat species can live under extreme environmental conditions and survive for days without drinking water.
Sand Cats can regulate their body moisture to prevent the urge of drinking water or feeding on prey for a long time.
Places to Spot Sand Cats
It is a bit of pure luck to spot Sand Cats in the wild. But Al Ain Zoo has a beautiful facility for visitors to meet Sand Cats up-close.
It is not possible to end the list of desert animals without any mention of Camels. Camels are the animal that most people associate with deserts and they are not at all wrong. Camels, fondly called the “ships of the desert”, are present all across the Dubai desert region.
Once you leave the periphery of Dubai city and head towards the desert, you can enjoy multiple sightings of camels. Meeting these humped creatures is quite common in this part of the world. The E44 Hatta Road is the best-known spot near Dubai to watch plenty of camel caravans right on the highway.
Camels can store up to 35 kilos of fat which can help them to survive for weeks without drinking water or having food.
Where to See Camels in Dubai
- The Camel Farm
- E44 Road
- In desert areas
Rare Birds in Dubai
Dubai’s wildlife is decorated with the presence of a number of rare birds. Below are a few of the exotic birds that you can spot during your visit to Dubai.
1. Desert Eagle Owl
The owl is one of the most prevalent avian categories that you can spot in the desert of Dubai. Although these nocturnal bird species become active after sunset, the sighting of owls during daytime is not all hard in the barren lands surrounding Dubai.
Owls go for hunting at night as their eyesight comes to full ability in pitch-black darkness. Owls prefer to feed on insects, small reptiles, tiny birds and little mammals.
Desert owls are not just found in wild habitats in Dubai but you can also interact with this interesting creature at the Ritz-Carlton RAK Al Wadi’s Bird Reserve. Many locals even keep owls as their pets in Dubai.
Owls have this unique ability to turn their heads around up to 270 degrees. Many of us find this characteristic not just unusual but spooky too.
Places to Spot Desert Eagle Owls
- Mushrif National Park
- In captivity at the Ritz-Carlton RAK Al Wadi Bird Reserve
If you look back to the history of Emirati people, you will instantly understand that the Falcon has always been treated with special attention and respect. This avian species has played and still plays a crucial role in the tradition and heritage of the UAE. There’s no gift for guessing that it’s the falcon who enjoys the title of “National Bird of UAE.”
Falcons are one of the most favourite animals that Emirati people prefer to keep as pets. In spite of being born-hunters, falcons can be well trained. Arid desert areas are the best places to spot these regal creatures.
In the past, Bedouins living in deserts used to catch and train flacons to hunt for them!
Falcons are known for their unique hunting technique where they can be trained to deliver the prey before killing it.
Places to Spot Falcons in the UAE
Sighting of a Falcon in Dubai is common. To know more about Falcons, you can visit –
One migratory bird species that UAE can boast of as an endemic element is the Flamingos. There are six different types of this graceful avian species and The Greater Flamingo is native to UAE. Flamingo is not at all a bird that you can see in and around desert lands. They prefer warm wetlands to live in.
The bright pink plumage makes these tall birds even more attractive. It is an impressive sight to watch Flamingos in huge flocks. Flamingos typically live in massive groups where they lay eggs and then bring up the young ones.
Places to See Flamingo in Dubai
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is the home to thousands of Flamingos. The sanctuary comes with three bird-watching platforms so that visitors can enjoy spectacular views of these beautiful birds without any hiccup.
If you’re interested in spotting some incredible birds in Dubai we have a great guide to Bird Watching in Dubai.
Places in and Around the City to Explore Wildlife
Apart from the above-mentioned places, there’s lot more that Dubai’s wildlife scene can offer you. Here are the most popular destinations in and around the city where Dubai’s flora and fauna come alive in front of your eyes.
- Dubai Desert Conservation Centre
- Dubai Safari Park
- Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
- Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
- The Green Planet
- Dubai Creek
- Dubai desert and its dunes
- Beaches of Dubai
- Al Barsha Pond
- Safa Park
- Al Qudra Lakes
- Golf Courses
- Landscaped residential communities like The Greens, The Gardens etc.
- Hajar Mountain Range, Hatta
- Ras Al Khaimah Mountain terrains
- Wasit Wetland Bird Sanctuary, Sharjah
- Eastern Mangrove National Park, Abu Dhabi
Best Time of the Year to Explore Dubai’s Wildlife
You can spot an incredible amount of wildlife in Dubai throughout all times of the year. To see specific migratory species though, the winter months are more popular.
If you’re wanting to explore the many animals Dubai’s desert has to offer, try and stick to the winter months. Many of the desert animals in Dubai take shelter in the midst of the summer and so sightings become more rare. Plus, you don’t want to catch heat stroke too!
Although Dubai is celebrated for its contemporary architecture, there is so much to explore for wildlife enthusiasts.