No, this is not about those tailgating SUV drivers, although I would like to write about them one day, too. And I will not go Attenborough on you, either – if you are looking for a serious, academic article I assure you that you have come to the wrong place. It’ just a tongue-in-cheek post with some pictures of interesting animals I have spotted in the UAE over the years. What I have found is in sharp contrast to what one might think – and what I once thought – about a desert. It is not so much a barren wasteland as an ecosystem alive with all sorts of endemic creatures.
Anyway, without further ado, lets take a look at our critters, shall we?
People generally tend to save the best for last, but I am of an impatient disposition, so I will start by introducing “Porky,” our beloved (sadly, now ex-) pet desert hedgehog. When I say “ex” I don’t mean he died, we just had to find him another home due to our upcoming move from a townhouse to an apartment. Until my wife found him (we never were able to confirm the gender but for some reason we always thought it’s a he) in the basement parking lot of her office, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a desert hedgehog. Apparently their range is pretty much all of the desert areas of the Middle East and they are quite common. My wife is a huge wildlife buff, so she naturally had to bring the animal home. After my initial surprise subsided, we started thinking about how best to care for him and decided our small backyard might be the ideal place for him to roam around freely, like he would do in nature. We also felt he would be safe there, after seeing him curl into a spiky ball and successfully fend off the occasional curious stray cat without a sweat. This kind of interaction with other creatures (including us) only happened in dusk, as hedgehogs apparently only come out at dark to feed. They are “crepuscular” (now there’s a word you didn’t know), i.e. only active in twilight hours (although Porky never came out at dawn), as opposed to nocturnal, which means active at night. Desert hedgehogs apparently forage for small insects as a food source, but since we were not sure how good a cuisine our backyard would provide and whether he would have enough, we experimented with different foods to see what else he might like. We found out soon enough that his favorite foods are dog food and meat. Whenever we had leftover meat we would chop some up and throw it in the yard. Cooked carrots were also fine, but he didn’t really touch any other vegetables or fruit. My wife also had the genius to buy a hamster wheel in the remote hope that he might use it to exercise, and to our delight, he actually did! When we sat in our living room we would often hear the soothing sounds of him spinning in his wheel. The only thing we could not do for him was to find him a mate and it looks like the new owners won’t be able to do so either, so it is likely that our poor Porky will die celibate. They only live for 4-5 years, so chances are he might already be middle-aged or even old in hedgehog years by now. We still miss Porky, but do take comfort in the fact that we have found him a good home. Goodbye Porky, and keep spinning!
Now here’s a look at some other creatures: