The Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx spp.) is a medium to large sized, heavily built lizard with a spiny club like tail, which has been likened to a small living dinosaur. They are ground dwelling and live in some of the most arid regions of the planet including northern Africa, the Middle East, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north-western India. The generic name (Uromastyx) is derived from the Ancient Greek words ourá (οὐρά) meaning “tail” and mastigo (Μαστίχα) meaning “whip” or “scourge”, after the thick-spiked tail characteristic of the species. When cold they are a blue colour (see bottom photograph) and when warm from sunbathing they are a yellow colour.
The Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia microlepis) is most common in Saudi Arabia and is the one that occurs in Dhahran and is generally regarded as a subspecies of the Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia). It is locally known to the Arabs as ‘Dhub’ (Arabic:’ضب’). The main diagnostic character of the genus is the highly specialised tooth-like bony structure replacing the incisor teeth in the upper jaw in adults. The Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard can be distinguished from Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia aegyptia) by lacking enlarged tubercular scales scattered over the scalation of the flanks, having 149‑193 (mean 171.8) ventral scales rather than 126 – 158 (mean 142). Other features include a smaller scale size and more colourful yellow or greenish colour when warmed-up in adult specimens of Arabian Spiny-tailed Lizard. It is distinguished from Uromastyx leptieni by a different juvenile colour pattern and a higher number of ventrals.
Abha animals & insects – Abha Region
Whilst in Abha and the surrounding areas we saw a number of interesting animals. The most common and easily seen were Hamadryas Baboons which were very common. The best site to see them was at the very top of Mount Soudah where a rubbish bin was very attractive to them. They could also be seen in various places along the roadside on the way from Abha to the top of Mount Soudah. Good photographic opportunities were available as they were in more natural habitat than at Baha where they always seemed to be around rubbish of one type or another. Quite a few were also seen whilst going down the Raydah Escarpment but as the road was very dangerous to drive the opportunities to photograph them here were limited. Whilst birdwatching the Mount Soudah pick-nick site area I found a butterfly on a number of occasions with a large eye on its under-wing and at the bottom of the cable car ride from Mount Soudah, which took about ten minutes and covered a distance of 5 kilometres, we saw an unidentified grasshopper as well as a number of butterflies including a very striking and confiding individual shown below. The cable car station is open from 09:00 hrs until 19:00 hrs and costs 80 riyals per adult with young children going free and is on the right hand side of the road just before the summit of Mount Soudah if going from Abha to the summit. A small unidentified lizard was seen at Habalah Hanging Village where it was seen basking in the sun on some steps of the old village and a brown butterfly was seen at Raydah Village at the bottom of the Raydah Escarpment. If anyone knows what any of these animals / insects are? please leave a message and let me know.
Wildlife in Saudi Arabia
While in Saudi Arabia in September 2009, we went on a day road trip from coastal Jeddah up to the mountain city of Taif. In a perfect illustration of the saying, “You learn something new every day,” I learned that the escarpment outside of the city of Taif is home to a large troop of baboons.
(Specifically, it’s home to baboons of the hamadryas, or “Sacred” baboon species.) I had no idea that there were wild monkeys in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia began setting aside land for protection of natural habitats, flora, and/or fauna in 1978. Currently, the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation & Development (NCWCD) manages 15 protected areas, which encompass 85,557 square kilometers (33,033 square miles).