UAE & OMAN 2011

ARABIAN PHOTO HERP TRIP
UAE & OMAN

 

Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE

Map of Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE, showing field herping locations

 

Wadi Al Helo is located in eastern Sharjah and being more rocky montane desert the habitat contrasts with the sandy desert of Al Batayeh. We set out to search for geckos and also our third target species, the recently described Oman carpet viper (Echis omanensis). Our search was therefore after dark.

Wadi Al Helo is an archeological site
as well as an herpetological location.

 

We spent field time in three locations at Wadi Al Helo.

The first was a group of abandoned houses (ruins site) at the roadside near the Austrian Quarry.

The ruined roadside houses near the Austrian Quarry, Sharjah, UAE.
photo: Johannes Els
Google Earth view of the abandoned roadside houses.

 

We found the houses were home to a number of gecko species and managed to capture and identify the Persian semaphore gecko (Pristurus rupestris), Arabian fan-toed gecko (Ptyodactylus hasselquistii) and a female Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus gallagheri), but we missed a yellow-tailed male of the same species.

Persian semaphore gecko,
Pristurus rupestris
Arabian fan-toed gecko,
Ptyodactylus hasselquestii
Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko,
Asaccus gallagheri

(female)

 

Then we moved on to an irrigated garden (garden site) which was reputedly good for Dhufar toads (Duttaphrynus dhufarensis) although we did not find any.

The irrigated garden at Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE.
photos: Johannes Els
Google Earth view of the garden site at Wadi Al Helo.

 

Here we found more geckos, a Musandam leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus), and a Hajar tuberculated gecko (Bunopus spatalurus hajarensis) and another Arabian fan-toed gecko. We also found an Arabian desert scorpion (Compsobuthus cf. maindroni) .....

Musandam leaf-toed gecko,
Asaccus caudivolvulus
Hajar tuberculated gecko,
Bunopus spatulurus hajarensis
Arabian fan-toed gecko,
Ptyodactylus hasselquestii
Emirates desert scorpion,
Compsobuthus
cf. maindroni

 

but the icing on the cake was a large female Oman carpet viper which was backed up against a wall in ambust position.

 

Female Oman carpet viper,
Echis omanensis
at the garden site, Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE.

 

Finally we searched in dry wadi with high cliffs on one side (cliff site).

The cliff site at Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE.
click on the images to enlarge

 

The ruined roadside houses near the Austrian Quarry, Sharjah, UAE.
photo: Johannes Els

Google Earth view of the cliff site at Wadi Al Helo.

 

 

At first the search seemed fruitless but eventually we did find a few reptiles, a male Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko, and an Omani short-fingered gecko (Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus) which was sighted beneath a thorny Acacia but which evaded capture, requiring the photograph of one of the specimens at the Arabian Wildlife Centre. when I called Johannes to help me capture the leaf-toed gecko he encountered a male Oman carpet viper enroute to my location - needless to say the carpet viper came first, then the gecko.

 

Gallagher's leaf-toed gecko,
Asaccus gallagheri

(male)
Omani short-fingered gecko,
Stenodactylus leptocosymbotus

 

Male Oman carpet viper,
Echis omanensis
at the cliff site, Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE.

 

At around 3:30 in the morning we stopped searching and headed back to the Sharjah Desert Park. I had an early start in the morning with so many reptiles to photograph.

We later returned to the Wadi Al Helo to release the two carpet vipers, but after a few more photographs of the them, we released them both at the cliff site as we thought the owner of the irrigated garden might not appreciate the return of the large female. As she was released she immediately climbed into a thorny Acacia and settled down.

 

Female Oman carpet viper,
Echis omanensis
prior to release at Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE.

 

Dilan and Mark with the two
Oman carpet vipers,

Echis omanensis

 

Photographing the female carpet viper in the Acacia.
photo: Johannes Els

 

Female Oman carpet viper,
Echis omanensis
climbing in Acacia after release at Wadi Al Helo, Sharjah, UAE.