A Guide To Desert Wildlife

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A guide to desert wildlife https://www.visitdubai.com/en/articles/desert-wildlife-guide-al-marmoom 20200130T152451 20200130T152509:637159947097354662 Natural Attractions in Dubai From graceful gazelles to stately oryx, the sands of Dubai are rich with hundreds of species of wildlife. Keep an eye out for these desert dwellers when you venture outdoors.

Dubai’s desert is home to a host of natural creatures

Dubai’s desert is home to a host of natural creatures

From graceful gazelles to stately oryx, the sands of Dubai are rich with hundreds of species of wildlife, particularly in the Al Marmoom conservation area, located near the Bab Al Shams desert resort. Keep an eye out for these desert dwellers when you venture outdoors.


With its long, straight horns and distinct white shape, the Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) makes a regal statement against the golden sand-dunes. Considered all but extinct in the 1960s, the animal has been saved following comprehensive breeding programs and reintroductions into its natural habitat. Oryx-sightings are common in the Dubai Desert Conservation Area, as well as the desert near Bab Al Shams, where several feeding stations have been erected. While the animals tend to stay within their restricted area, they are known to wander freely during the winter seasons.

arabian oryx in desert

Arabic name: Al maha
Did you know: The oryx’s white skin helps reflect the hot sunlight, but calves are born sand-coloured to ward off predators


Two species of this graceful mammal are prevalent in the UAE: the Mountain Gazelle (Gazella gazella), found primarily in mountainous areas and on gravel plains, and its fairer cousin, the Arabian Sand Gazelle or Reem Gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), which was reintroduced in the wild over the past two decades. The more agile Mountain Gazelle can reach speeds of up to 65km/h in times of danger and is highly territorial, marking its area with a wax-like secretion. The Reem Gazelle is considered vulnerable on international endangered animals lists and is extinct in other parts of Arabia.

gazelle in al marmoom

gazelles in al marmoom

Arabic name: Al gazal al reem (sand gazelle); Al gazal al jabali (mountain gazelle)
Did you know: Female Reem Gazelle are mostly hornless, unlike much of their species


Among the hundreds of bird species present in the desert is the rare Asian Houbara Bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii), also known as MacQueen’s Bustard. Keen birdwatchers have spotted this migratory bird near the Al Qudra lakes, the artificial water bodies in the Seih Al Salaam desert. The lakes are home to a whopping 170 types of bird species, including some on the endangered or vulnerable list. In addition, the aptly named Swan, Flamingo and Duck Lakes welcome their namesakes as well as several species of migratory and resident birds.

houbara bustard in al marmoom

Did you know
: The Houbara bustard can survive without drinking water. It soaks up all its water needs from the food it eats, allowing it to survive in arid climates

Geckos and lizards

The desert is rife with reptiles, including lizards, geckos and toads. The Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx leptieni), known locally as dhub, is the most prevalent and is highly suited to the desert environment. These creepy crawlies are able to survive on little vegetation for months on end, and are known to live for up to 80 years. Also present is the Wonder Gecko, one of the largest of its kind, with distinctive reflective eyes.

dhub lizard al marmoom

Arabic name: Dhub (Spiny-Tailed Lizard)
Did you know: Dhub meat is considered a delicacy in some Gulf populations

It is important to note that wildlife must be respected and should not be disturbed in its natural environment. And while you can venture into the desert on your own, it is best to be accompanied by a qualified guide.

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