Saudi animals in focus on World Wildlife Day

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This photo taken on 1 March 2018 shows an Arabian Oryx runs in Najran’s desert. (SPA)
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This photo taken on 1 March 2018 shows an Arabian Oryx runs in Najran’s desert. (SPA)
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This photo taken on 1 March 2018 show a flock of ostriches in Najran. (SPA)
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An Arabian wolf scouting the mountainous plains of the Arabian Peninsula. (Photo credit: Social media)
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The Arabian leopard, sand gazelle, Nubian ibex, and striped hyena, some of the critically endangered animals native to Saudi Arabia. (Photo credit: Social media)
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A sand cat hunkering down in the desert in Saudi Arabia. (Photo credit: Social media)
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A sand cat on the prowl in the desert. (Photo credit: Social media)
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An Arabian wolf scouting the mountainous plains of the Arabian Peninsula. (Photo credit: Social media)
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A sand cat preying on a common food source, a viper. (Photo credit: Social media)
Updated 03 March 2018

Saudi animals in focus on World Wildlife Day

JEDDAH: World Wildlife Day has arrived and all eyes are on animals native to Saudi Arabia.
Familiar to many is the Kingdom’s national animal, the Arabian camel, as well as the world-renowned Arabian horse, celebrated for its striking beauty, elegance and intelligence. Today, however, two animals will be showcased and they are seldom seen in Saudi Arabia, partly due to their nocturnal habits but mainly due to their endangered status.

MEET THE SAND CAT
Do not let this cute domestic-looking feline fool you — this is a predatory carnivorous wildcat.
Predominantly found in the western part of Saudi Arabia, sand cats are the only species of the cat family to live exclusively in the desert. They can weigh between 5-8lb and reach lengths of 2-3ft. From hot sunny days to cold windy nights, they adapt well to the extreme weather changes found in the desert. Their feet are covered with a thick coat of hair insulating their paws from hot and cold temperatures. Their padded paws also allow them to walk on the sand without sinking, leaving footprints that are nearly untraceable.
A defense mechanism of crouching down and shutting their eyes when a light is shone on them is common, which prevents light reflecting from their eyes and hinders being tracked by larger predatory animals. Sand cats are primarily nocturnal hunters, silently roaming the desert for prey.
National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) Director Ahmed Al-Bourg spoke to Arab News about the importance of improving animal conservation.
“NWRC is working on awareness campaigns to educate citizens and residents alike about the importance of these species in our system, and how they play a vital role in our environmental balance,” he said. “NWRC has 15 animal sanctuaries and wildlife reserves in the Kingdom, including three marine reserves.”
The sand cat has had a revival in numbers of late. It is currently categorized as of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) after being endangered for the past couple of decades, especially during the Gulf War when their livelihood and habitats were greatly impacted.
During the Gulf War the Saudi government sent eight sand cats to S.O.S. Care, an international California-based conservation organization, in an effort to preserve the species, which has proved highly successful.
National Geographic photojournalist Steve Winter highlighted the importance of conservation efforts for endangered animals, specifically big cats such as the Arabian leopard.
In a statement to Arab News, he said: “Everybody loves big cats, and the land in which they live is vitally important to us as humans. You save the top predator in any ecosystem, you save everything underneath that, which means the land they live on also. If we can rally around them, and try to save them, we can help save ourselves.”

THE ARABIAN WOLF
Another animal not often seen in the Kingdom is the Arabian wolf. The Arabian wolf is a smaller sub-species of the gray wolf, and like the sand cat is predominately nocturnal. Most Arabian wolves can be found roaming the mountainous desert regions of Najd and Tabuk. The weight of an Arabian wolf averages 25kg (55lb) and their length can reach up to 5ft.
Unlike the majority of wolves, the Arabian wolf does not hunt in packs but rather alone or in pairs. Arabian wolves will attack and eat any animal the size of a goat or smaller, most often small- to medium-sized prey such as rodents, rabbits, small gazelles and small ibexes. Occasionally they will feed on carrion and livestock when near human settlements.
Since they occasionally prey on farm animals such as sheep, goats and chickens, livestock owners often set traps for the wolves and even hunt them to protect their livelihood. Habitat loss from industry and intensive agriculture has also become a significant threat to the wolf.
There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Arabian wolves left in the wild and they are currently categorized as “endangered” by the IUCN.
Today is World Wildlife Day, a day to remember the beautiful animals that share our land. The sand cat and the Arabian wolf are just two of the many species facing the threat of extinction. They are out there in the wild and often out of sight, but with the right conservation efforts, not out of mind.


Saudi Arabia confirms 154 new coronavirus cases

Updated 31 March 2020

Saudi Arabia confirms 154 new coronavirus cases

  • Sixteen of the new cases had come from abroad

JEDDAH: Saudi Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly on Monday confirmed 154 new cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Kingdom. Sixteen of the new cases had come from abroad.

“Since their entry into Saudi Arabia, they have been placed in quarantine,” said Al-Aly at the daily press conference held to announce updates on COVID-19 in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia announced free treatment to all COVID-19 patients in both government and private health facilities in the Kingdom.

Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced the royal order and said it included citizens, residents and those in violation of residency laws.

Al-Aly said: “This gesture is undoubtedly — as the health minister stressed — customary in this country. It is a very important humanitarian step. It adds to all the previous steps that the country has taken to give this community the highest levels of protection and health security.”

Al-Aly provided a breakdown of the latest cases. The majority were recorded in Makkah, with 40 cases, followed by Dammam (34), Riyadh (22) and Madinah (22). Jeddah, Hofuf, Khobar, Qatif and Taif all recorded a low number of cases.

Tabuk, Buraidah, Yanbu, Al-Ras, Khamis Mushait, Dhahran, Samtah and Al-Duwadimi reported one case each.

“This brings the total number of registered cases of coronavirus in the Kingdom to 1,453. Most of the patients are in a stable condition and are showing uplifting results,” Al-Aly said.

He said 22 cases are still receiving intensive care, given their critical health conditions. “No additional deaths were recorded and 49 additional cases were treated, bringing the total number of recovering cases to 115,” he added.

The number of reported COVID-19 cases worldwide has reached 734,000. Around 34,000 people have died; 152,000 have recovered.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Talal Al-Shalhoub said that a number of neighborhoods in Makkah will be isolated as a further precautionary measure.

He said the restriction was introduced to limit the spread of the virus in the Kingdom and to preserve the health and safety of citizens and residents.

Al-Shalhoub said the isolation measures would be implemented in Ajyad, Masafi,Misfalah, Al-Hujun, Al-Nakkasa and Hosh Bakr.

He added that the restrictions will be “preventing entry or exit … and preventing touring throughout the day for 24 hours, from 3 p.m. as of March 30 until further notice.”

Residents of the selected Makkah neighborhoods will be allowed to leave their homes for necessities such as health care and groceries “within the scope of the isolation between 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

The ministry said that all activities that have been allowed during curfew hours should be carried out in the strictest limits and in accordance with the procedures and controls determined by the concerned authority.

Saudi intensive care unit patient Moayad Qashqari encouraged all residents to seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms.

Commenting on the royal order, he said: “This is a call for all residents in our country; whether they are residence violators or those whose residency has expired. The hospital doors are opened for them, they will not be rejected if their residency has expired.”

He added: “They will be provided with treatment to go home fully recovered. All residents must take this step to look after their health and the well-being of their families. If it isn’t fatal to one person, it could be fatal to someone else.

“We advise everyone to be cooperative and take responsibility.”
 

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