Golden Spiny Mouse

The small and stocky Golden Spiny Mouse (Acomys russatus), called fa’r abu shawk dhahabi in Arabic, is named for its spiny, golden-orange colored fur that runs from its head to the base of its tail.

They use this spiny fur as part of their defense system, erecting the spines to appear larger than they are to predators, which include birds of prey, owls, and snakes. They will also bite to defend themselves.

Its blackish tail is shorter than its body. They have black ears with a white patch of fur behind each ear. Their underside is pale-colored, their legs gray, and their feet pale with black soles. They have a distinct white spot below their eyes.

Golden Spiny Mouse in Wadi Gharba

Golden Spiny Mice do not make burrows, but rather live in rock crevices and among boulders. They are more strictly found in arid and rocky areas than their cousins, the Cairo Spiny Mice (Acomys cahirinus), which are also found in Sinai. Golden Spiny Mice are also diurnal and more likely to be seen during the day than their cousins.

These rodents are omnivorous and are reported to eat plant matter, seeds, dates, grains, and insects like moths and grasshoppers, but also spiders, scorpions, and dung.

I spotted the Golden Spiny Mouse in the video above in Wadi G’Nai and watching him try to get all the goodies out of the caper fruit was quite entertaining! These mice can even be found at the top of Gebel Musa.

Have you ever spotted one of these cute fellows in South Sinai?

References:

Fishman, B. 2000. “Acomys russatus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 26, 2019 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Acomys_russatus/

Hoath, Richard. (2003). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

Nubian Ibex

Last spring, while wandering through wadis, I was lucky enough to spot a Nubian Ibex. Many years ago while driving, I saw a small herd of ibex in the distance. We stopped the car to watch them, but they were too far away to truly appreciate. Not this time!

Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana)

Nubian Ibex are strong and stout goat-like mammals, adept and agile at climbing through the rocky mountainous terrain they typically call home.

Both male and female Nubian Ibex have backswept, ridged horns that are “flattened like sword blades”, but they are longer and heavier in males. Their coat is a light sandy brown on their upper parts with a white belly and legs. Males, and some old females, have black beards. Nubian Ibex have a distinctive pattern on their legs, with black patches above and below the knee and a white patch above their hooves.

These animals are active in the early morning and late afternoon. Ibex are herbivores, eating grass, shrubs, roots, and Acacia, and they need access to standing water.

While I have not come across another more ibex, I have seen their scat in various places that I have wandered. The scat is pellet-shaped and consists only of vegetation (not fur or feathers as in carnivores).

Encounters with ibex in South Sinai are rare as the number of these beautiful mammals has been greatly declining over the years, due in part to illegal hunting (which is why I won’t say where exactly I was wandering when I spotted this one). They are listed as a “vulnerable” species on the IUCN Red List. Their survival is also threatened by competition with local livestock and feral camels, habitat loss and degradation, and the fluctuating availability and distribution of waterholes.

My encounter with a Nubian Ibex was indeed special and not one I shall ever forget!

References:

Hoath, Richard. (2003). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

Egyptian Red Fox

The Egyptian Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes aegyptiacus) is the largest fox in Egypt and one of three species of fox occurring in Sinai. I’ve never spotted a fox while wandering through wadis, but over the years I’ve spotted several from moving vehicles. Always magical to see! But difficult to capture with a camera. (Especially if you’re the one driving.) One night, though, we were treated to a visit by a fox – a fox intent on stealing some fish!

Egyptian Red Fox (2)

We had driven up one of the wadis behind Dahab with Eid, a Bedouin friend, who had promised to make us a traditional meal cooked over a campfire. (You can read more about the watermelon fettah here. It was delicious!) As the men were preparing the food, this fox came inching closer and closer, drawn by the scent of fish. Eid put the fish on a small raised platform to keep it away from the fox but that didn’t deter it.

Egyptian Red Fox (1)

The fox also didn’t seem bothered by the flash from my camera. He was persistent, but the fox never did get the fish and was eventually shooed away by Eid’s young son.

Egyptian Red Fox (4)

The Egyptian Red Fox lives elsewhere in Egypt and only relatively recently did they expand into South Sinai, most likely related to the increasing spread of human activity. These foxes are not foxes of true deserts. They inhabit vegetated wadis, farmland, gardens, and desert margins. We spotted this Red Fox several years ago, when tourism in Dahab was booming and this wadi was a popular destination for tourists to enjoy a desert dinner. Our Bedouin friend said this helped explain why the fox was around, feeding on leftovers, and not so scared of humans.

The foxes are nocturnal and eat insects, small rodents, fish, fruit, and vegetables. In Ras Mohamed, they are known to dig for crabs.

Although they are commonly called Red Foxes, this subspecies is not red, but more of a ruddy grey-brown. They have large ears and the hair on the back of the ears is black. Their tails are bushy and white-tipped and they have a darker-colored streak that runs from their muzzle to their eyes. Facial markings are a distinguishing feature among foxes and so can help identify the species. I am no expert, of course, and at first had thought this was a Rüppell’s Sand Fox, another species found in Sinai, but I have learned that the Sand Foxes have very distinctive black marks under their eyes. Tail color and proportion is another distinguishing feature; the Blanford’s Fox, also found here, has the longest tail of Egyptian foxes and it’s dark-tipped.

If you’re like me, though, you’ll be delighted to spot a fox in South Sinai, no matter what the species!

References:

Hoath, Richard. (2003). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.