AL AIN // A pair of caracals from Yemen is calling the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort (AWPR) home after the family that owned them asked the zoo for help. The park custom-built new lodgings for the 18-month-old brother and sister, who had been raised by the family in their home since birth. As the animals grew larger, the family contacted staff at the park to see if they would step in.
"When the family found that the caracals had reached an age that they could no longer accommodate their needs, they had to find a solution," said Farshid Mehrdadfar, AWPR's animal collection manager. "They had heard about our work with Arabian peninsula animals and contacted us." AWPR veterinarians and staff flew to Yemen to see the caracals and perform medical checks on the pair, and arranged for the medical certificates required by both Yemen and the UAE for the transfer. A member of the family in Yemen travelled to Al Ain to see the animals' new enclosure, spending a week helping as the caracals adjusted to their new home.
Although the cats are less wild than their counterparts roaming deserts, they are not as domesticated as pet cats would be. As caracals are an endangered species, the zoo will seek to pair and breed them, said Mr Mehrdadfar. Perhaps the last of the medium-sized cat species surviving in the UAE, the caracal is of special interest to the AWPR's arid land carnivore conservation programme. Widespread in Africa and parts of Asia, caracals are indigenous to the mountain areas of the UAE, including Ras al Khaimah and the Hajar mountains. They are severely threatened by habitat destruction and ill-treatment by humans.