The Middle East is home to many animals that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, that have evolved and adapted to the unique environment of the region. Some of the species are so rare they are actually endangered. Here’s a look at 7 mammals prevalent only to the region:
1) Arabian Mau: These frisky felines are descendants from wild desert cats, which are well- adapted to hot Middle Eastern temperatures. Their ears, for instance, are long and stand upright in order to dissipate heat. But the most fascinating thing about the Arabian Mau, which can be found mainly in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., is that it was thought to be a random street cat. It was only declared a legitimate breed in 2008!
2) Palestine Mole Rat: Also known as the Middle Eastern Blind Mole Rat, this rodent has been pestering Palestinian farms for hundreds of years. It can be found in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon Turkey and, of course, Palestine. The Palestine Mole Rat is also considered the best animal for lab testing and is used in cancer research, thanks to its powerful immune system.
3) Arabian Tahr: The Arabian Tahr, which is closely related to the wild goat, is an endangered species found mostly in the Hajar Mountains of Oman. They are well equipped to handle the high altitudes and the steep slopes with their rubber hooves, stocky builds and backward arching horns.
4) Syrian Hamster: Who knew that one of the most popular house pets originated from Syria? The Syrian Hamster, also known as the Golden Hamster was referred to as “Mister Saddlebags” in local Arabic due to the amount of food it can store in its cheeks. The Wild Golden Hamster population is quickly decreasing however, due to habitat loss.
5) Arabian Oryx: Qatar Airways’ mascot is known for its distinct, long straight horns and was nearly extinct in the 1970s. Fortunately, preservation efforts managed to reintroduce the antelope to the wild. The Arabian Oryx is mainly found in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.
6) Bunn’s Short-tailed Bandicoot Rat: This teeny tiny rodent can actually only be found in Iraq, and prefers the marshlands of the Tigris and Euphrates Valleys. It is considered an endangered species.
7) Cheeseman’s Gerbil: Named after explorer and military officer Colonel Robert Ernest Cheeseman, this medium-sized gerbil is about 22cm long, and is mainly found in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as southwestern Iran.