Arabian Tahr, Arabitragus jayakari
The Arabian tahr (Arabitragus jayakari) is a species of ungulate that is related to wild goats. This tahr is native to Arabia, residing in the Sultanate of Oman and in the Hajar Mountains located in United Arab Emirates. It can be found at elevations of up to 5,905 feet within its range.
The Arabian tahr was first given the name Hemitragus jayakari, after it was described from specimens collected by Dr. A.S.G. Jayakar. In 2005, genetic studies found that it belonged in the newly created genus of Arabitragus. It is the only species within this genus.
This species of tahr is the smallest, with both males and females baring horns. The horns are curved, and face the back of the tahr, and grow to be thicker in males. The fur of the Arabian tahr is typically burnished red in color, with both males and females baring a darker stripe that extends down the middle of the back. The fur grows longer on the neck, creating a beautiful mane. Older males tend to have the best manes, as well as dark fur patches around the eyes.
The Arabian tahr forms small groups of two or three individuals, or prefer to be solitary. This is a trait unique to the species, as well as rutting season habits, where it will form small family groups instead of herds. It is thought that this species can breed throughout the year. It feeds on leaves, shrubs, fruits, and grasses. Water is very important to this species, and if a water source dries up, it will seek a new home.
Habitat destruction, poaching, and overgrazing are the main threats to the Arabian tahr and have caused its numbers to dwindle greatly. Poaching usually occurs when the tahr leaves its mountain home for a fresh supply of water. Human developments in Oman have caused much habitat damage to this tahr’s natural habitat and have also forced it to compete with once domestic livestock for food.
In 1975, the Hajar Mountains were listed as a protected area for the Arabian tahr, and in 1980, the Omani Mammal Breeding Center created a captive breeding program from which young tahrs could be released into the wild, and two other organizations have followed suit. Despite this, more work is needed to ensure the safety of the species, including alerting the public to the danger that the tahr faces. Another protected area was created in 2009 in the United Arab Emirates, known as the Wadi Wurayah Fujairah preserve. Currently, the Arabian tahr appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Endangered”.
Image Caption: A stuffed Arabian Tahr from the Natural History Museum of the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture in Al-Khuwair. Credit: cosmo45/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)