Let's get to know some interesting facts about fauna of Egypt with its different kinds of desert and home animals that are found just in Egypt, in South Sinai and its desert.
There are many kinds of animals living in Egypt. Horses, Camels, Buffalos and Donkeys are the most prevalent animals to be found here. As for desert wildlife the Gazelles, Nubian Ibex, Jackals, Jerboas and desert Foxes are indigenous to the country.
Camels are the most famous animals in Egypt. For thousands of years camel has been the choice method of transportation throughout this part of the world and for good reason. Camel can travel for weeks without food or water, living off the fat and body fluids stored in its hump (the hump also makes a very comfortable seat for the rider). There are tow main types of camels:camels with 2 humps and other with just one hump it's called dromedary.The most popular in Egypt is dromedary (Hairier). Notice the odd shape of its nostrils, camels can close them up to keep sand from getting in and minimize the loss of moisture.
The Fennec or desert Foxes are common animals in Egypt, they can be found all over Egypt, but mostly in the desert areas, where they have evolved to fit the life quite well. Their small bodies (the Fennec is the smallest fox in the world) minimize the loss of body heat and water. Their large eyes and ears allow them to see and hear both predator and prey very easily. Fennecs are often kept as pets, and if they are born and raised in captivity can be quite docile.
The Desert Lynx is the largest of Egypt's wild cats, though still much smaller than its jungle cousins. Its sandy-brown color with dark ear tufts are its most distinctive feature. The Lynx main prey are birds. Its powerful legs and agile body give it the ability to leap into a flock of birds and kill before they even have a chance to react. Its front legs look like the front legs of the Sphinx don't they?
The weasels are found all over the world as they can adapt to fit any environment. Weasels will eat anything, and they do devastating damage to the domestic fowls such as chickens and ducks, eating the eggs as well as the small chicks. For many Egyptians, the weasel is a great nuisance. They are often found living in the city, even in the walls of houses like mice, stealing food wherever they can find it.
It hunts the same prey as its domestic counterpart: small rodents, birds and snakes. Really, the only way to tell the Egyptian Wild Cat from a common tabby is its tail. It is shorter and thicker than that of the domestic one. But if you can get close enough to an unknown cat in Egypt to see its tail it probably is not a Wild Cat at all.
South Sinai is one of three richest places in Egypt for biodiversity, the others being Mediterranean coast and Gabel Elba in the extreme south west. Let’s discover some common kinds of animals that live in South Sinai, together with some of the more interesting rare types. Some have a very restricted distribution and are priority species for conservation.
Unlike Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt is not full of large animals, but it does have some. In the distant past, several million years ago, there was an extensive and complex fauna of large mammals whose fossils have been much studied from Faioum. The gradual drying of North Africa over last 10 000 years has seen off most species, and some of the survivors were driven to extinction by human hunters of prehistory and history, leaving just a remnant still extant. Not much is known of the prehistoric fauna of Sinai. Certainly this did not contain camels, since they are absent completely from the Pharaonic period in Egypt. Camels seem to have been introduced by humans only about 2000 years ago.
Arabian Leopard is critically endangered, probably already extinct in Egypt mainland for a long time, the subspecies called the Arabian Leopard hung on Sinai and may still occur there. There are a few in the Negev desert, but they have disappeared from the Hejaz mountains of Saudi Arabia just across the Gulf of Aqaba from Sinai. The difficult mountain terrain and their exceptionally secretive and wary nature makes it very difficult to establish the existence of a breeding population. The last positive record in Sinai was in 1996, and the last definite specimen in 1955 when one was shot neat Mount Sinai.
Nubian Ibex is endangered already, magnificent ibex is completely at home in the steep rocky mountains of South Sinai, being able to climb the steepest cliffs and traverse seemingly impossible paths. They used to live in groups of up to 40 animals, but now few than 10. In early February, males use their huge horns to fight for mating access to females, rearing up to hammer them down on their opponent. Ibex have always been a favourite meat for the Bedouins, and they are vulnerable because they have to drink every day, unlike many other desert animals. The last time they were counted it was just about 400 in the whole South Sinai! Luckily in recent years population seems to be recovering, especially in the eastern Desert.
Striped Hyena is not at risk although they are rare but widely spread in Egypt and Sinai. They are general scavengers and predators, eating a wide variety of different foods including garbage – one of the best places to see them are rubbish dumps at night. Camera traps of St. Catherine protectorate have photographed hyenas several times recently, and certainly there is a reasonable population of these interesting creatures in South Sinai.
Gazelle of South Sinai are very vulnerable. There are now only 2 species of gazelle resident in Egypt, both vulnerable to extinction; only Dorcas Gazelle occurs in Sinai. They live on sandy plains and wadis in the lowlands, with its stronghold on the El Qaa plain. The animals enter into wadies to feed and crosses over to between east and west Sinai via the lower southern wadi systems. In Egypt mainland its main predators is used to be cheetah, but since its disappearance the main thread for gazelle is now illegal sport hunting, often on a highly organized scale. Luckily this hardly happens on Sinai, but gazelles’ population is still low and vulnerable. The Dorcas Gazelle lives in pairs or small groups, and feeds on many different kinds of plants. It requires access to water as well.
There are a number of rather rare medium-sized mammals in Sinai, but few common ones. By far the most likely to be seen are foxes in the early morning or late evening.
Foxes – are not at risk. All three Egyptian species of fox occur in South Sinai and their shrieks punctuate the stillness of the evenings, often sounding like children crying out in pain. The native common species is Sand Fox (abu risha), smaller than the Red Fox (abu al hussein), with proportionally larger ears and softer paler fur. The Red Fox has come in with human settlement, and now is the most common species around St. Catherine and coastal towns, where it feeds on chickens and stray cats. A beautiful Blanford’s Fox is small with very large ears and a huge long bushy tail rather like a cat’s. This kind is very rare and occurs only in eastern Sinai, right at the western edge of its world distribution, which runs all the way to Afghanistan.
Hare – usually called rabbits in Egypt. They are very common all over Egypt, including Sinai. They rely on remaining hidden in a hole or under a plant until the last minute, and so normally the only view of them is an animal rushing away at top speed from under one’s feet. They feed on plants such as zygophyllum at night, and if necessary can survive just on water taken in with their food. They breed more in the lowlands because litter sizes reduce with altitude, and hence they are not so common in the mountains. Although hares from South Africa to Egypt are all called the same species, the Cape Hare Lepus Capensis, probably the situation is in really more complex and several species are involved. Egypt’s hares probably belong to North African version as yet unnamed.
Hyrax are not at risk, they are peculiar animals both zoologically and anthropologically. They used to be regarded as the closest living relatives of elephants; now we think probably that elephants and dugongs are close relatives, and the hyrax is their next sister-group. There is a captive colony that can be viewed at the end of Wadi Arbaein, close to the town of St. Catherine. Otherwise hyrax can be hard to see, because their colonies are patchy and they stay motionless much of the time. They are ancient inhabitants of Egypt: the characteristic white stains of their faces can be seen on rocks in Gabel Uweinat in the southwestern corner of Egypt, where the animals have not lived for several thousand years.
Like mammals in general, the majority of Egypt's 94 species of terrestrial mammal are bats and rodents, i.e. small. As with many animal and plant groups, the highest diversity occurs in South Sinai, along the north coast from Libya to the Delta, and in Gebel Elba in the far southeast. All of Egypt's five endemic mammal species are small (two gerbils, two shrews and the Egyptian Weasel), but none is confined to Sinai.
Spiny mice are not at risk. They are large golden-coloured mice with a set of extra thick stiff hair (spines) on the front part of their backs. We find 2 species in Sinai. The Golden Spiny Mouse (a. russatus) and The Sinai Spiny Mouse (a. dimidiatus). And one, Cairo spiny mouse (a.cahirinus) occurs throughout Egypt mainland, but not in Sinai. These mice are associated with the Bedouins walled gardens, typically making their nests among the stones of the walls. They are rarely found away from the wadi bottom and far from gardens, where they feed on seeds and insects.
The Golden Spiny mouse has a restricted distribution in the southern Middle east, whereas the Sinai Spiny Mouse, despite its name, ranges from Sinai to Pakistan. Normally both are nocturnal, but where they occur together, as in the South Sinai mountains, the golden Spiny Mouse becomes diurnal.
Their spines are part of clever defense mechanism against their predators: the spines repel many would-be predators, but if they are grasped, a large patch of skin comes away completely (as does the tail skin) and the mouse escapes – it is the mouse equivalent of a lizard breaking off its own tail. Because of this mechanism, Acomys blood clots incredibly quickly so they do not lose too much after their escape.
Sinai Dormouse is not in danger, this beautiful animal is called “Abu Kohla” by the Bedouins because of the diagnostic dark rings around its eyes, extending back to their ears like a pair of spectacles. It has a long tail with a dark bushy tip, large ears and long complex whiskers. Its distribution is small, from Libya to the Middle East, and hence Sinai populations are significant on the world scale. It occurs mainly away from the Bedouins gardens on the rocky sides of the Wadis, where it feeds at night on plants material and insects. The Sinai Dormouse is always much rarer in the Wadis than the Spiny mice, and there is not a great deal known about their biology.
Sinai Barbastelle – a small black-brown bat with relatively short wide ears joined at the forehead, with the tragus in the ear hairy, triangular and more than half as long as the ear. This one is the rarest of all Palaearctic bats, with the smallest known distribution of any Palaearctic bat. It was originally discovered in 1822 or 1826 by Ruppell from “Arabia Petraea” now from detective work on the travelers’ Journals known certainly to be Sinai, and possibly the garden of Saint Catherine monastery. His two specimens were matched only by a handful from Israel until 2005, when Dr. Christian Dietz caught the species again in Egypt after 183 years. Subsequent study has recorded the species from several places in South Sinai, but numbers are clearly very low. Unlike more other bets, Barbastelles specialize almost exclusively on moths, especially moth with “ears” that listen in to bat echolocation calls. Most populations are therefor likely to be critical to survival of the Sinai Barbastelle, making the installing of street lights a long the highway to Saint Catherine of particular concern.
Long-eared bats are not at risk. These two lovely bats with their characteristic over-sized ears are quite common in Sinai, foraging in Bedouins gardens and around open water sources such as the irrigation tanks. The highly maneuverable in flight, fly slowly and carefully around trees and vegetation as they glean mainly moths from the leaves. The huge ears receive even the smallest echoes, enabling them foraging in the way. Otonycteris species produce honeybee-like buzz in flight.