A large whale (approximately 30 feet long) was seen spouting 20 nautical miles off Das Island towards Zakum on May 23rd. It was tentatively identified as a baleen whale from the family Balaenopteridae. It could have been any one of the following six species that could stray into the Gulf:Fin Whale Balaena physalus
A report in the local press of August 16th noted that the Council of Ministers had approved a draft law regulating the hunting of birds and animals in the UAE. The new law prohibits the hunting of land and marine birds in UAE territory and forbids the collecting of eggs with the exception of Cormorant species. Tame animals are also protected by law.Caracal Lynx
The creature temporarily captured and photographed on September 10th at a school in Ras al Khaimah, and which so perplexed the local press, turned out to be a Caracal lynx (Caracal caracal). Records of this creature from the UAE/Oman are rare though this may imply only that sightings are not reported by people living in the hills. The most recent confirmed report of a lynx in the Emirates was in 1968 when David Harrison recorded one in sand dunes at Tawi Sueyham, about 65km east of the present Abu Dhabi new airport. That specimen was identified as Caracal caracal schmitzi.White Storks
The Laboratory of Ornithology, Institute of Biology of the Latvian Academy of Science (what a mouthful) is studying migration patterns of various birds. Thirty young white storks were ringed and dyed with numbers and detained in the Eastern Baltic for a month after the main migration of this species had got underway, and were finally released at the beginning of October. The Institute believes that they may take a more westerly route and end up in the Mediterranean but away from the usual east coast. Clearly the Laboratory of Ornithology would be most interested in sightings of any of these storks in the UAE. Any such recordings should be conveyed to Jenny Hollingsworth, the ENHG Bird Recorder.Arabian Oryx
On September 29th, the World Wildlife Fund formally conferred its highest honor, the Order of the Golden Ark, on Sultan Qaboos of Oman for his vital contribution towards the reinstatement of the Arabian Oryx as an indigenous native of Oman. These creatures were virtually extinct a few years ago but have been bred notably in Arizona and Jordan, and the Government of Oman is taking steps to ensure that groups are gradually being released into the wild. The Oryx are, of course, totally protected and their progress is being closely monitored.Lappet-faced vultures
The Vulture's nest atop a sagging acacia tree on the summit of Hafit, which was used in 1981, 1982 and possibly 1983, has not been positively identified from color slides as that of a Lappet-faced vulture. This large bird of prey is hardly recorded from the UAE and, in fact, the nest is virtually on the dividing line between this country and Oman. There was earlier speculation that the birds were escapees from Al Ain Zoo, but it now seems certain that this species is, in fact, endemic to Hafit and probably the mountains further east.Dugongs
After months of bad news on the potential effects of the oil slick, it is pleasant to report that the dugong have not, in fact, been wiped out in the Gulf as some reports have suggested. A herd of up to 30 was sighted between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in September, including two or possibly three calves. In addition, two dugongs were seen by Terry and Diane Donohue on June 10th in the channel between Khalidiya Palace Hotel and Bahrani Island, Abu Dhabi. A tentative observation of a single creature was recorded in the same area at the end of September.