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December 3 2021 3:17 AM ˚
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7 unique threatened species in Jordan

oryx
(Photo: RSCN)
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AMMAN — Jordan isn’t well-known for its wild animals so much as it’s known for its tourist destinations. But the Kingdom is actually home to a variety of wildlife, including a number of endangered species.اضافة اعلان

Climate change, hunting, and the intrusion of humans into natural environments are all threatening Jordan’s native creatures. Jordan News talked to Omar Abed, fauna researcher at the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), about the unique and endangered species that call Jordan their home.

Arabian oryx

This large horned antelope is the national animal of Jordan — but it actually went extinct in the wild in Jordan during the 1920s, according to Abed. In the hopes of restoring the natural population, oryxes from an American zoo were transferred to Jordan and introduced to the Shaumari Reserve near Azraq in 1978.

Today, over 100 of the striking white oryxes can be found in fenced enclosures in the Shaumari Reserve. Jordan’s targeted breeding program has been so successful that the country now helps supply oryxes to other countries — though there are still no wild oryxes in the Kingdom.



The Arabian oryx, the Kingdom’s national animal, went extinct in the wild in Jordan in the 1920s. But a breeding population has been established in Shaumari Wildlife reserve that distributes oryxes to other countries hoping to replenish their populations. (Photo: RSCN)

Striped hyena

Abed told Jordan News that the country is home to around 16 species of carnivore that fall into 5 families. “Most of them are threatened at the national level,” said the researcher.

Chief among these carnivores is the striped hyena. “This species is facing huge threats from hunting,” explained Abed. Another factor endangering the species is “habitat fragmentation”; caused by climate change and population growth.

Yet another threat to the grey-and-black furred predators is local mythology, which says the species is supernatural or evil. “Some people are scared of this species. Some people kill them,” said Abed. Additionally, some shepherds kill hyenas out of fear that the carnivores will kill their goats. “In general, the population of this species is declining,” said Abed.



The striped hyena is one of 16 species of carnivores in Jordan. They are threatened both by hunting and by the reduction of their natural habitats. (Photo: RSCN)


Roe deer

The roe deer, like the oryx, went extinct in Jordan in 1909. The small deer was driven to extinction due to deforestation. However, the Ajloun Forest Reserve launched a captive breeding program in 1998, starting with a group of individuals from zoos. Since then, a number of the deer have been successfully reintroduced into the wild.



Due to deforestation, the Roe deer went extinct in Jordan in 1909. But a successful breeding program in the Ajloun Forest Reserve has led to some of the deer being reintroduced to their natural habitats. (Photo: RSCN)

Caracal

“The caracal is a very shy species,” said Abed. The medium-sized wild cats are distinguished by their reddish fur and long tufted ears. They “live in the rocky mountain areas” and “depend on the wild resources, like mice, gerbils, (and) some kinds of birds” to eat.

Abed explained that caracals, alongside the other wild cats that live in Jordan, are mainly endangered due to a decrease in their natural habitats. As humans expand into areas where they live, the natural ranges of animals like caracals decreases. “All of these species come into conflict” with human behavior, said Abed.

Hunting caracals is forbidden in Jordan. The animals, while more common in Africa, are rarely seen in Jordan, though they have been documented in the Dana Biosphere Reserve.



The caracal is a medium-sized cat that lives in Jordan. The animal is very shy, making its presence in the Kingdom difficult to document. (Photo: RSCN)


Jungle cat

The jungle cat is another medium-sized carnivore native to the Middle East. Abed explained that the jungle cat is one example of a forest-inhabiting species that has been threatened by deforestation and climate change in Jordan.

A 2003 study identified the cats in the northwestern part of the country, mostly along the Jordan River. They prefer “thick vegetation close to permanent water bodies”, according to the paper, led by University of Jordan professor Mohammad Abu Baker. The study also noted that the cats were often targeted by hunters who poisoned and attacked them in order to defend their poultry.



The jungle cat is another carnivore. In Jordan, the cats are mostly found along the Jordan Valley, but they’re threatened by habitat fragmentation and by occasionally being poisoned or trapped by farmers protecting their flocks. (Photo: RSCN)

Nubian ibex

The Nubian ibex is a wild goat characterized by long curved horns. The ibex lives in sandy mountain areas, according to Abed, mainly in the Mujib reserve, the Dana Biosphere reserve, and Wadi Rum.

Though they were once common in Jordan and Palestine, ibexes’ populations have reduced dramatically over the past years. The ibexes were reintroduced into Mujib in 1989.The wild goats are “facing huge pressure from hunters,” said Abed, a pressure that affects their population numbers.



The Nubian ibex is a wild goat that lives in sandy, mountainous areas. The ibexes face enormous pressure from hunters and their population has greatly declined in recent years. (Photo: RSCN)

Greater horseshoe bat

Abed explained that there are 26 species of bats in Jordan, including the greater horseshoe bat. All of these bats, as well as bats around the world, are facing the same threat: white-nose syndrome, a disease caused by a fungal infection that can be fatal.

But the small winged animals are also facing other dangers, such as stigma from the coronavirus which has been speculated to originate in bats. He added that bats are also affected by forest degradation and the intrusion of humans onto their natural habitats.

Bats, despite the stigma from COVID-19, are a crucial part of ecosystems, according to Abed.



Horseshoe bats are just one of 26 species of bats that call Jordan home. The bats have struggled to deal with both a startling disease called white-nose syndrome and negative attention in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: RSCN)


“We need to enhance the general opinion” about animals in Jordan “to improve biodiversity,” said Abed.

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