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Research team spots Arabian Ibex drinking seawater in Oman

In a field study conducted by a research team from the Environmental Conservation Office at the Environment Authority, a rare instance of Arabian ibex drinking seawater has been documented in the Sultanate of Oman.

Oman News Agency

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

MUSCAT : The study, carried out to track the spread of the Arabian Ibex (Tahr) in the Ras Abu Dawood area of the Muscat Governorate, revealed this unique behavior through camera traps deployed over the course of the research.

Sayyid Taimur bin Abdullah Al Said, an environmental systems specialist at the Environment Authority, highlighted the significance of this finding, noting that consumption of seawater is an uncommon occurrence among land mammals. He elaborated on the environmental conditions of the study site, situated in Ras Abu Dawood, characterized by its isolation and limited availability of fresh water, with an average annual rainfall of 117.2 mm, primarily during the winter months, and a hot climate in the summer.

The Arabian ‘Tahr’ ibex (Arabitragus jayakari), endemic to the Hajar mountain range in the Arabian Peninsula, holds a special place in Oman’s wildlife heritage. Living in steep and rugged habitats at altitudes ranging between 400 and 1,200 meters, the Arabian ibex is an integral part of Oman’s biodiversity, sharing its habitat with other mammals such as Arabian gazelle, Arabian wolf, lynx, wild cat, red fox, and mountain fox.

The study confirmed the Arabian ibex’s ability to drink seawater, a behavior attributed to the scarcity of freshwater sources in the Ras Abu Daoud area. It also supported the hypothesis that the ibex utilizes seawater as a nutritional supplement due to its low sodium and mineral content. The monitoring process, facilitated by camera traps, captured male, female, and baby ibex briefly drinking from large pools on the rocky shore between tides, typically for only 2-3 seconds.

Al Said emphasized the importance of preserving the behavioral diversity of the Arabian Ibex, which aids in its adaptation and survival in arid environments. He noted that such behaviors may prove crucial in mitigating the effects of future environmental changes in the region.

The findings of this groundbreaking environmental study have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Arid Environments via the sciencedirect website, contributing valuable insights to the scientific community on the behavior and adaptation of wildlife species in arid environments.

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