Wildlife of the United Arab Emirates
In the oasis grow date palms, acacia and eucalyptus trees. In the desert the flora is very sparse and consists of grasses and thornbushes. The indigenous fauna had come close to extinction because of intensive hunting, which has led to a conservation program on Bani Yas island initiated by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan in the 1970s, resulting in the survival of, for example, Arabian oryx and leopards.
Until recently, this strong, resilient animal was as vital to the nomads of the Arabian desert as horses were to medieval Europeans. Even now there are estimated to be 16 million camels in the Middle East and North Africa, including nearly 400,000 in the United Arab Emirates, so when the descendants of Bedouins hold a camel beauty pageant, it is as serious as a horse show.
More than 20,000 of these elegant even-toed ungulates with their single humps converged in December on the desert town of Dhafra, in west Abu-Dhabi, for the fourth Al-Mazayin camel beauty competition, where 800 owners competed for prize money of up to 35million dirhams (£6.2m).