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Jebel Hafit flora and fauna to get due attention

Staff Reporter
Filed on April 15, 2012
Jebel Hafit flora and fauna to get due attention

Jebel Hafit, the only mountain in the emirate and home to some of the most threatened wildlife and the UAE’s rarest plants, will undergo comprehensive assessment and monitoring this year by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD).

Jebel Hafit, located south of Al Ain and straddling the border between the UAE and Oman, is considered one of the most important areas in the Abu Dhabi emirate for terrestrial biodiversity.

It is home to breeding populations of globally threatened species such as the Blandford’s Fox and Brandt’s Hedgehog, as well as a number of other species that are rare or not found elsewhere in the emirate.

The globally threatened Arabian Tahr is one of these species and it has been caught on EAD’s radar, as part of EAD’s monitoring programme.

As part of its on-going effort to monitor mammal diversity and distribution in and around Jebel Hafit, EAD has set-up special cameras in the area that automatically detect and capture a shot of anything that walks past it. The cameras, which work 24/7, use an infra-red flash which is used to avoid startling the animals.

Jebel Hafit is home to the only concentration of the Globally Threatened Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the UAE. This species is listed as Endangered on the Red List of Birds by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The mountain is also home to breeding Kestrels as well as Bonelli’s Eagle, a resident breeding bird, and the Hume’s and Hooded Wheatears. Another important species that is resident in and around the mountain and its wadis (valleys) is the Sand Partridge.

At first sight, Jebel Hafit appears to be barren of vegetation, yet it is home to the Dwarf palm (Nanorrhops ritchieana), locally known as Asef. This is the only species of native palm found in the UAE and is considered one of the rarest plants in Abu Dhabi and the Arabian Peninsula.

So far, 170 plant species have been documented from Jebel Hafit and this accounts for over 40 per cent of the total plant species recorded in the emirate.

The mountain’s largest wadi, Wadi Tarabat, is alone home to around 95 species of plants, including Christ’s thorn (Ziziphus spina-christi) which was historically used for building, food and herbal medicine. Today, its leaves are still used in some areas to produce shampoo and its nectar-rich flowers are an important source of food for bees.

Acridocarpus orientalis, locally known as Qafas, also grows in Jebel Hafit’s Wadi Tarabat and is of outstanding conservation value as it’s the only know population of the species in the UAE, apart from a few other locations on Jebal Hafit.

Unfortunately, both Acridocarpus orientalis and Nanorrhops ritchieana have no natural regeneration in the wild and what is left of those populations growing in the wild are all what is left in the emirate.

“Jebel Hafit supports a range of rare species and habitat, which could not thrive in the surrounding desert. It is vital that we ensure the cultural and environmental value of Jebel Hafit for current and future generations,” said Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General, EAD.

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