Every country in the world has its own share of dangerous, poisonous, and venomous creatures. Scorpions, snakes, and spiders – the UAE is also home to plenty of creatures that many of us would rather see on a wildlife documentary than in real life.
Dangerous mammals are highly rare and encounters are unlikely in the desert. More common are the likes of reptiles, including snakes and arachnids, including scorpions as well as spiders.
Earlier, creatures such as reptiles and arachnids were particularly prevalent in desert regions because they were better able to cope with extreme conditions. There is no room for complacency, though, because some of the more dangerous creatures in the UAE have developed a liking for residential areas.
Here are some of the key animals to look out for in deserts and residential areas:
1. Arabian Sand Viper
The Arabian Sand Viper is an adult size of a sand viper averages 20–35 cm (8-14 inches) in total length (body + tail), with a maximum total length of 50 cm (1.6 ft). Females are larger than males. Small and stout, it has a broad, triangular head with small eyes set well forward and situated on the junction of the side and the top of the head.
Their hunting strategy is unique when compared to that of other viperids because they use a combination of both sit-and-wait ambushing and active hunting.
2. Arabian Fat-tailed Scorpion
One among about 25 species of scorpions found in the UAE, the fat-tailed scorpion is usually dark in color and, as its name suggests, bears a fat tail. Its tail stings victims with a neurotoxin that is quite capable of killing.
The variety that is up to about 10cm in length and more are mostly active at night, eating insects and spiders. During the day they hide away in a burrow dug in the desert sand, although there have also been reports of this species in houses. Fun fact: they are kept as pets by many!!
3. False Horned Viper
False Horned Viper is also called the ‘Persian horned viper’. It is a species of venomous vipers endemic to the Middle East and Asia.
The adults averages between 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) in total length (body + tail), with a maximum total length of 108 cm (43 in) being reported. Females are usually larger than males. The head is broad, flat, distinct from the neck, and covered with small, imbricate scales. The snout is short and rounded.
4. Arabian Gulf Sea Snake
Like many dangerous creatures, sea snakes like the Arabian Gulf sea snake prefer not to encounter people and will typically not attack unless they feel threatened. Divers who come across sea snakes, which can grow as long as two meters, are unlikely to be bitten. Their venom contains neurotoxins, however, so bites should receive rapid medical attention.
Sea snakes are sometimes washed up on beaches and their inability to move on land easily means they can appear to be dead when they are still very much alive, hence any found on the sand should not be touched. So watch your feet on the beach!!
5. Death Stalker Scorpion
Isn’t the name enough to stay far far away from this creature? A single sting from this creature can kill!! Elderly people, those with heart conditions, and children are most likely to die from its sting.
The deathstalker can often be found under rocks, but they also build burrows for themselves – they stretch about 20cm, typically below rocks – or live in the abandoned burrows of other animals.
Yellow in color and with brown spots, they grow up to 11cm in length and are mostly active at night to avoid the worst of the heat. They like to eat worms, insects, spiders, and other small creatures, although they will also eat other scorpions.
6. Oman Saw-scaled Viper
Oman Saw-scaled Viper Echis or the carpet viper is a colorful, heavy-bodied, and short-ish viper. Don’t be deceived by this creature’s beauty as it is by far the biggest killer among snakes. It gives live birth instead of laying eggs. The snake feeds on rodents, lizards, other small snakes, and bird chicks.
Since they eat house mice as they generally live close to human habitations. An adult viper can be 40 to 75cm long with a pair of upper front fangs. The upper body is usually greyish or yellowish-brown, while the belly is white, speckled with brown or black.
7. Samsun Ant
Do not belittle these creatures on hearing ‘ant’ as they are one of the most dangerous creatures. It may only grow up to about 6mm in length, but it is as dangerous (if not more) as others in this list.
It can cause a severe allergic reaction or anaphylactic shock in people which, in extreme cases, can result in death. Indeed, reports say there have been a number of deaths in the UAE in recent years caused by the Samsun ant.
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