Friday, March 19, 2010

World's smallest snake spotted in Dubai

The Gulf Today, 19 March 2010

DUBAI Zoo's animal specialist Dr Mohammed Ali Reza Khan and his colleagues were on a day-long field trip outside the bustling city in the conservation desert area of Bab Al Shams, hen they stumbled upon an interesting wildlife discovery.
Little did they know that they had come across a specimen that would turn out to be the world's smallest snake existing in the deserts of Dubai.
The thread snakes, at a length of 40 centimetres, were found earlier only in some scattered Caribbean islands.
The trip, through the Dubai Municipality's departmental conservation area No.8, turned out to be worthy as they also spotted a couple of other rare wildlife species, roosting in the wilderness: an Asian desert warbler and the Eurasian thick-knee, better known as the Karawan.
"We had both cloudy and clear skies and temperature was also good for long distance walking. The moments were quite unexpected and a once-in-a-lifetime experience where we encountered the rare species of animals in a totally different environment," narrated Dr Khan.
"We spotted the thread snake under a stone in the civic body's special conservation area in the Bab Al Shams deserts. The non-venomous snake, which looked much more like an earthworm, had a length of 40 centimetres with just the thickness of a lady's hairpin," he explained.
The slender thread snakes, known in its scientific name, Leptotyphlopidae, are featured with smooth and shiny scales. Members of this family look much like blind snakes, and all of them have tube-shaped bodies that are about the same diameter from head to tail. The snakes have short heads with mouths that open downward instead of right on the front end of the head.
Dr Khan said, "An Asian desert warbler was the next one in our rare wildlife species discovery of the day. The bird, also one of the world's smallest, is rarest in the desert of the UAE."
"The length of the Asian desert warbler is less than 10 centimetres, having prominent yellow eyes and legs," he added. "The bird is fed only on insects, their larvae and spiders."
According to him, the bird is no doubt a friend of our plants and gardens.
Dr Khan's and colleagues' third catch of the day of Bab Al Shams desert tour was also a rare bird named Karwan.
"Karwan is the Arabic name for the Eurasian thick-knee, which used to be hunted with falcons during the last century," he noted. "But currently there are no more hunting activities in our desert areas."
"We found three Karwan birds among the bases of the scattered forests of Acacia Ehrenbergiana, a multi-stemmed small shrub spreading from the base, in the Bab Al Ahams," said Dr Khan.
He has also seen another rare bird named Ashy Drongo during a walk in Safa Park in the buzz of the city.
"The Ashy Drongo was chasing a Hoopoe bird to snatch food - a cut worm - larva of a garden beetle from it, as I entered the park through Gate No. 3 at around 3.30 in the evening and took a left turn towards the boating lake to approach the road," he said.
"In December, the bird was seen once at the Sewage Treatment Plant at Al Warsan," Dr Khan stated. "The bird had also appeared in Abu Dhabi and Ain Al Faydah recently.

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