From our desert expedition volunteering with oryx and wildcats in Arabia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia)

Well that’s another Arabia expedition over and a lot of valuable data collected, which will be thoroughly analysed over the next few weeks and months to go into this year’s expedition report. The team finished surveying their quadrants yesterday and gathered up all the live traps (aimed at sand foxes and Gordon’s wildcats), rodent traps and camera traps from throughout the reserve on one final drive-around.

Unfortunately there were no more captures in the live traps, but there was a lot of evidence of fox activity around the traps and one team did see cat tracks on Thursday.

There were more captures of Cheesman’s gerbils in the rodent traps, which suggests that their population is at a good level, which is important as they are a major food source of the Gordon’s wildcat and eagle owls. We were certainly made aware of the eagle owls’ presence during the last two nights with incessant hooting in the nearby ghaf trees!

The camera traps photographed a lot of oryx and two Arabian red foxes, but no Gordon’s wildcat. This does not mean that there are no wildcats, but it reinforces the estimate of just how rare they are.

The initial summary of the sightings in the quadrant surveys indicates that the populations of Arabian gazelles and sand gazelles are good and the health of the oryx herd is really good, based on the fact that they are now breeding, which they have not really done over recent years. Each herd recorded had several calves and one herd had eight.

On Thursday afternoon (the hottest day of the week at 36°C), we were joined by the reserve’s botanist, Tamir, and Head of Conservation, Greg, to be shown the new drone. A flight was planned covering the area around our camp, which is being surveyed by air to assess the vegetation cover and type. We were all able to watch the drone being launched and fly transects backwards and forwards looking like a big bird and sounding like a very distant mosquito.The DDCR scientists are very excited about this new development in the technology that can be used to help them do their jobs with minimal impact on the habitat and wildlife.

So we said our thanks and farewells to the team this morning and hope to see them again on future expeditions. Many thanks also to the DDCR and the scientists for another great expedition and we look forward to 2016 by which time a few Arabian wolves will hopefully have been introduced into the reserve and we’ll have even more work to do…

Thanks to all our participants. Your work has become an integral part of conservation efforts in Dubai. You could have shopped, shopped, shopped, but instead you spent a week in the desert surverying, surveying and surveying. Well done and thank you so much.

Kate

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From our desert expedition volunteering with oryx and wildcats in Arabia (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/arabia).

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