also see: Birds of Egypt
and Bird Watching
Egypt has 24 Protectorates (Nature Reserves).
Marine reserves with underwater reefs along the Egypt's coastline - graveyard to many wrecked ships - are beautiful, and much valued by scuba divers - the Yolanda coral reef and Shark Reef (in a permitted diving area) are great examples.
The Ras Muhammad National Park is a World Heritage Protectorate at the southern extreme of the Sinai Peninsula, 12 km from Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Coral reefs, coral shores, and underwater caves formed by earthquakes form part of it's character. Around its shores are a variety of habitats, including gravel and coastal mud plains and sand dunes. Tyran Island, near the Syrin coast, is a floating coral reef island with and underwater caves formed by earthquakes. The rocky landmass of the Ras Mohammad peninsula itself is arid desert, mountains and wadis, inhabited by Nubian ibex, with acacia trees and dum palms - and a mangrove forest at its southern end .
Fishing with dynamite had been destroying the coral reef and the fish populations until, in 1983, the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency (EEAA) established the area as a marine reserve.
A wide variety of 'Wetlands Protectorate' add to the wonderful diversity of habitats to be found in Egypt. The Zaraniq Protectorate and El Bardaweel Marsh are particularly vital to worldwide bird migration. As such they are designated both 'Wetland Protectorate' and 'Natural Restricted Area For Birds'. Over 270 species of birds in 14 classes have been recorded there - including Pelicans, Herons, Crested Lark, Quail, White Stork, Avocet, Hen Harrier, Rail and Falcon.
Quaron Lake (in the El-Fayoum area, 90 km from Cairo) is an ancient natural lake, globally renowned for its abundant sea, river, continent fossils as well as for the magnificent cultural heritage of the area. The hundreds of Nile Islands around Luxor are 'wet lands protected areas', covering an area of '37150 Feddans'. A feddan is a unit of area - relating to an area of ground that could be tilled by 'A feddan' - a yoke of oxen - in a certain time - approximately 4200 square metres.
Buhayrat al-Burullus (Lake Burullus or El-Brolus lake) is the second largest natural lagoon in Egypt and is designated a site of International importance for birds under the Ramsar Convention. The saline swamps and cane swamps with sand plains, and high sand dunes on its shore support many plant species, and 33 species of fish, 23 species of reptiles, 112 species of birds and 18 species of mammals live in and around the lake.
Petrified Forest Protected Area, 'Desert Nature Reserves', Geological Protected Areas
Further southwards along Nile are the 'Geological protected areas' of El-Dababaya and others near Aswan. Egypt also has a Petrified Forest Protectorate and various desert nature reserves.
In 2001 the bones of a giant dinosaur, Paralititan stromeri, were found in the area around the Bahariya Oasis which was once mangrove swamp and tropical forest (but has now become desert). The Bahariya Oasis is a treasury of fossils, but has remained largely unexplored since a German geologist Ernst Stromer discovered four smaller dinosaur species there - but his fossils were destroyed during World War II . The researchers also found fossils of turtles, crocodiles, other large sauropods, and three carnivorous dinosaurs the size of Tyrannosaurus rex.
Fennec Fox, by Wildfeuer
Egypt has about 100 mammals, but unfortunately most are now on the brink of extinction. In some desert areas such as the wadis of Gebel Uweinat, rock art depicts a wetter climate with ostriches, giraffe, gazelle and herds of cattle.
The Fennec fox weighs just 1.6kg - it's world's smallest fox - ad its hearing is so good it can hear its prey moving underground.
Nile Crocodile, in Luxor
Egypt's 106 species of Reptiles and Amphibians includes snakes, lizards, geckos, scorpions and crocodiles.
The only crocodile you are likely to see near Luxor is in the miniature zoo on Crocodile Island. The construction of the Aswan Dam dealt the final blow to any hope of their survival in the northern reaches of the Nile. The impressive Nile Crocodile, once common in Egypt, is now found only in Lake Nasser.
Lake Nasser is also home to the large Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus) and the Nile Soft-shelled Turtle (Trionyx triunguis). This area is also a good place to see jackals (Canis aureus) and Sand Cats (Felis margarita).
Here a Plover, or lapwing, is shown eating leeches from the teeth of a Nile Crocodile,
in a classic example of symbiosis. The original caption of this old picture identified it as a Spur-winged Plover (Vanellus spinosus) - but it could be an Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius).
(Illustration from Popular Natural History by Henry Scherren, published 1909)
A crocodile might not strike you as the obvious pet - but way back in 5th century BC Herodotus reported that he observed Egyptians keeping crocodiles as pampered pets.
The power of a crocodile
A crocodile would sometimes be kept in a temple pool of temples dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-god. The crocodile would be covered with jewellery and worshipped. Even today even some Nubian fishermen stuff and mount crocodiles over their doorsteps to ward against evil. The Ancient Egyptians left behind many mummified crocodiles - and even crocodile eggs - in the tombs of the dead. The temple of Kom-Ombo was dedicated to Sobek the crocodile-god.
Geckos are the most common of the 49 species of lizards in Egypt.
The Egyptian Gecko (Stenodactylus guttatus) is delightful. Most geckos sleep clinging to the underside of some bark, with their backs to the floor but the Egyptian Gecko (stenodactylus guttatus) likes to be different. It lies flat on its tummy, tucks its front feet in to lay its head on them (rather like a cat does!) and stretches its back legs out behind. When cornered the gecko will wag its tail - presumably when the predator is tempted to grab it the gecko, in true lizard fashion, sheds the tail and escapes in the confusion. Egyptian Geckos seem to be equally at home inside buildings as in their natural habitat of old olive or oak trees.
Quite a few of the 36 snake species in Egypt are poisonous to varying degrees, but most are very uncommon.
Cobra, Vipers and Sand Boa
The aggressive Cobra (Naja haje) and the and the Horned Viper are the most easily distinguishable, but you are more likely to see the Cobra at a tourist show than in the wild! When the Cobra rears up and spreads its hood - it is angry!
In some parts of the desert there are dangerous Saw-Scaled Vipers (Echis pyramidum) - here shown curled under a rock - which are related to rattlesnakes.
The Sand Boa is too small to be particularly dangerous to people (just a couple of feet long) and, like the cobra, helps to keeps the rodent population down.
The Egyptian Tortoise, is an endangered species. Other reptiles such as the African Beauty Snake, Psammophis sibilans, Tessellated Water Snake, Natrix tessellata and the Ocellated Skink, Chalcides ocellatus are more easily see up river towards the Nile Delta.
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