Scientific Name: Uromastyx aegyptia leptieni
Arabic Name: Dhub ضب
IUCN Red List Status: Vulnerable
A fish…in the desert? Not exactly, but that’s what this reptile is known as in the UAE, “Samakat al Sahra”, fish of the desert. Native to the UAE and other regions of the Middle East such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, the Spiny-tailed lizard, locally known as the ‘Dhub’, can live up to 80 years! They live in deserts, bushes and burrows, and are vegetarian 99% of the time, mainly feeding on herbs and grasses. They can go for weeks without eating because of their slow metabolism, which also extends the animals' lifespan.
This creature is a survivor, tolerating incredibly intense temperatures and using its razor sharp spines on its tail to defend itself from predators like desert monitors and eagles. It can also change colour according to its body temperature in the mornings when they’re cold, Dhubs are dark grey. They emerge from their burrows with this dark colouring, which helps absorb the solar heat, warming the lizard up and then turning it into a sandy beige colour. Being sandy beige helps reflect sunlight, prevent overheating, and camouflage in the morning.
Sadly, the Dhub is under threat from recreational activities, such as dune bashing and real estate development, unsustainable collection for food, traditional medicine and pet trade, and so they have been banned from hunting. However, in the past before hunting was barred, its tail was a very well-known delicacy among the Bedouins who would roast it over the fire (and they reported that it tastes like chicken!)
How can you help save the Dhub from disappearing?