x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Desert diversity

The discovery of a little-known rodent in a place where it's never been seen before reminds us that the animal world has workings of its own.

They may not be as glamorous as tigers and dolphins, but rare rodents deserve a bit of respect too.

As The National reports today, a critter never before seen at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve has now been spotted there in the course of research into the secret lives of rodents.

The gerbil-like Sundevall's jird was caught in a trap left overnight as part of a year-long project by Stephen Bell, a conservationist at the preserve. The irresistible bait? Peanut butter and birdseed, of course.

"It was fantastic," Mr Bell said. "It's always nice when you're putting in the long hours trapping and looking for things and you come across a species that hasn't been seen before."

This is not the only first-time showing for animals in the UAE over the last few years. In 2008, a cat native to the UAE was officially declared a new breed by the World Cat Federation. The Arabian Mau, often called the desert cat, has inhabited the Middle East region for more than 1,000 years. Over time, these familiar-looking cats have migrated from their desert environment to urban areas in search of shelter and food; whether peanut butter was on its menu remains unclear, however.

Next time you come across a stray cat, it could well be one that is unique to this region. Just like the jird, these animals should be protected, not abused or driven from our land. Even if we don't see them very often.