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The amazing animals of the Wadi Rum desert

agama lizard on a rock

The desert animals living in Wadi Rum

How many animals have adapted to survive in Wadi Rum’s harsh desert environment is remarkable. Despite the challenges, over 130 species of animals and 119 species of birds have made this place their home. However, seeing these creatures can be tricky if you don’t know what to look for. That is why we have compiled a list of the 25 amazing and rare animals living in Wadi Rum, including mammals, reptiles, birds, invertebrates, and one domesticated animal. This guide will give you a newfound appreciation for the incredible variety of wildlife that thrives in our unique and beautiful Wadi Rum desert.

Table of Contents

Mammals of the Wadi Rum desert

Wadi Rum Protected area is home to an incredible array of wildlife. UNESCO has recorded 26 species of mammals in this region, some of which are nationally endangered and others globally vulnerable. While we cannot confirm their current presence, we were fortunate enough to spot the critically endangered sand cat (Felis margarita) in 2021, which has not been officially recorded in Wadi Rum since the seventies. The vast and remote expanses of Wadi Rum offer these magnificent creatures space to thrive away from human observation. We have compiled a list of the 12 most remarkable mammals inhabiting our breathtaking desert.

Young Arabian wolf in the Wadi Rum desert

1 - Arabian wolf (Canis lupus arabs)​

The Arabian wolves are well-suited for desert life and typically inhabit mountainous areas. Their fur is short and light brown to greyish-yellow during the summer but grows longer in the winter. They are smaller than other wolf species, standing around 65 cm tall and weighing about 20 kilos. These intelligent and playful creatures live in family groups and show strong devotion to caring for their young and injured relatives, like elephants, gorillas, and dolphins. Wolves are solitary nocturnal hunters who prey on hares, foxes, small birds, reptiles, and rodents, among other animals. They may also consume plants and fruit if available.
Conservation status: endangered
Chance to see them: extremely small

2 - Caracal (Caracal caracal)

The Caracal is a medium-sized wild cat that lives alone and is easily recognizable by its long legs, short face, and long black-tufted ears. Its fur is mostly reddish gold, and its eyes stand out with a white hairline. An adult Caracal is around 65-90 cm tall and weighs about 11-18 kilos. These skilled hunters are mostly active at night and can reach speeds of about 80 kilometers per hour. They can even leap into the air to catch a bird during its take-off.
Conservation status: critically endangered
Chance to see them: nearly nil

3 - Striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena)

The striped hyena is a nocturnal scavenger that feeds on carrion and any leftover edible waste humans leave behind. These animals act as nature’s cleaners, equipped with strong jaws to break down bones and a digestive system that eliminates bacteria in carcasses. In times of abundance, striped hyenas tend to live in small groups of up to seven individuals, often comprising a mother with her young, previous offspring, and adult members. However, in times of scarcity, hyenas tend to live alone after their first year. These animals have fur ranging from greyish to beige and gold with black stripes. Striped hyenas are approximately 60-80 cm tall and weigh between 26-40 kilos, making them smaller than the other two species of hyenas.
Conservation status: endangered
Chance to see them: nil

4 - Arabian wild cat (Felis silvestris lybica)

The Arabian wildcat has a similar size and appearance to a domestic cat, measuring about 23 cm in length. Their fur is short and dense and can vary in color from greyish-brown to ash-grey or buff. They also have dark markings on their head and bands on their body, legs, and near the tip of their tail. This wild cat is a solitary creature that hunts at night and feeds on small rodents such as jerboas, reptiles, and large insects. They prefer to live in remote areas away from human settlements and have multiple dens where they can retreat.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: small

Arabian red fox in Wadi Rum

5 - Arabian red fox (Vulpes vulpes arabica)

The Arabian red fox has a brownish-pale red coat and weighs just over 2.5 kilograms. It has adapted well to life in the desert, with larger ears and a smaller body than its parent species, the red fox. The fur between its toes also protects its feet from burning. While the Arabian red fox usually lives alone, it may sometimes be part of a loosely formed social group. It is nomadic and occupies defined home ranges temporarily. Its diet includes rodents, birds, some desert vegetation, meat left by Bedouins, and occasionally carrion. This nocturnal creature is primarily active at night but can be seen sunbathing on the rocks or roaming around in the late afternoon and evening.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

Nubian ibex in Wadi Rum

6 - Nubian ibex (Capra nubiana)​

The Nubian ibex is a goat inhabiting rough, mountainous desert regions. They primarily feed on grasses and leaves. These goats are excellent climbers and can easily scale even the most challenging terrain, including bare rock. They are approximately 65-75 cm tall and weigh around 50 kilos. Their fur is light tan in color, with a white underbelly, and males have a dark brown stripe running down their backs. Both males and females have two long, thin horns that extend upwards and then curve backward and downwards. Male horns measure one meter in length, over three times the size of female horns. These goats are active during the day, even in scorching summer temperatures.
Conservation status: endangered
Chance to see them: small (they are also part of a captive breeding program in Wadi Rum)

Arabian oryx in Wadi Rum

7 - Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx)

The Arabian Oryx is a unique animal adapted to living in desert environments. Their broad hooves enable them to walk easily across the sandy terrain. They have white fur with contrasting dark chocolate brown legs, a brown flank line, and a white tail that ends in black. Their heads feature a dark brown blaze that continues down onto the chest. Both male and female Oryx have long, slim, almost straight, black horns reaching 50 to 60 cm. These animals typically weigh between 70 to 90 kilos and typically form small herds of only eight to ten members. They are omnivores and enjoy eating grasses, tubers, and shoots of trees and bushes. If you want to learn more about the beautiful Arabian Oryx, read “The Beautiful Story of the Arabian Oryx.”
Conservation status: regionally extinct
Chance to see them: nil (part of a captive breeding program in Wadi Rum)

desert hedgehog in Wadi Rum

8 - Desert hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus)

The Wadi Rum desert is home to the desert hedgehog, a small and well-adapted creature that can survive in hot, dry, and drought-like conditions. They are one of the smallest hedgehogs, measuring around 14-23 cm in length and weighing between 400-700 grams. Their hollow dorsal spines, pale brown with dark tips, serve as their defense mechanism. They have black faces with a white band on their foreheads. During the daytime, the hedgehogs rest near the rocks and cliffs of Wadi Rum. At night, they hunt for insects, small invertebrates, eggs, snakes, and scorpions, displaying a remarkable tolerance for venom. As their spines provide little insulation, they hibernate during the cold winter days.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

9 - Rock hyrax (Procavia capensis)

If you are exploring the rocky areas of Wadi Rum, keep an eye out for the Rock Hyrax. They usually live in groups of 10-50 individuals; if you spot one, it is likely their sentry keeping watch. Do not give up if you only see one, as others are nearby. These squat and heavily built animals can grow up to 50 cm long and weigh around 4 kilos. Their fur thickness and color vary depending on the season, ranging from dark brown to grey-brown. Their tusk-like upper teeth, toes, skull structure, and intelligence reveal their distant relation with the mighty elephant. The best times to see these unique creatures, which resemble big guinea pigs or rabbits, are morning and evening when they sunbathe and feed on grass and leaves.
Conservation status: endangered
Chance to see them: small

10 - Lesser Egyptian jerboa (Jaculus jaculus)

The Wadi Rum desert is home to the lesser Egyptian jerboa, a small and adorable rodent that is also incredibly resilient. These creatures live alone and resemble tiny kangaroos with long legs and short arms. They have large eyes and prominent ears, which are useful for their nocturnal lifestyle. Adults are around 10 cm in length and weigh about 55 grams. Their furry tails can be twice their body length and have dark and white tips. Their back fur is either pale or dark sand-colored, enabling them to blend in with their surroundings. They reside in extensive underground burrows with multiple entry points to escape the harsh desert temperatures. They hop or jump around at night, foraging for seeds, grasses, fungi, and insects.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

Wagner's gerbil in wadi rum

11 - Wagner's gerbil (Dipodillus dasyurus)

Wagner’s gerbils are cute, nocturnal rodents often called desert rats. Despite being rodents, they are a distinct group of animals from rats. They have pale gray-yellow and white fur that protects them from getting sunburnt and black brows above their big dark eyes. They measure around 7 to 11 cm in length, and their tails are roughly the same size. Like lizards, they can discard their tails if captured by a predator. Gerbils build elaborate underground tunnel systems like jerboas, where they spend most of their time. They only venture out to find food and water. They tend to favor areas with elevated rocks, clay, and plentiful yearly foliage and shrubbery. Their diet includes seeds from various grasses, leaves, herbs, locusts, worms, and beetles.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

12 - Botta’s serotine bat (Eptesicus bottae)

The Botta’s serotine is a remarkable creature that inhabits rocky areas in arid and semi-arid regions. With its dense, fine fur and dark brownish to black-brown face, it is another true beauty of nature. This medium-sized bat has a wingspan of 28 centimeters and weighs 8-9 grams. It loves having a water source nearby and roosts in crevices in walls and ruins, cracks in rock faces and caves. As a nocturnal animal, it starts foraging after dusk by slow hawking, flying high aboveground at an average speed of around 20 kilometers per hour. Its echolocation makes its strong and noisy flight even more impressive. These bats feed largely opportunistically, with a preference for beetles in many cases, and in Jordan, their diet includes primarily Hymenoptera and Heteroptera.
Conservation status: increasing
Chance to see them: fair

Reptiles of the Wadi Rum desert

In Wadi Rum, reptile enthusiasts can experience an amazing adventure as our desert is home to a whopping 34 different species. Lizards and snakes are abundant, with six families of lizards and ten species of snake, of which two are very poisonous vipers living in this astounding landscape. Here are our top five reptiles that will leave you in awe.

Sinai agama in Wadi Rum

13 - Sinai agama (Pseudotrapelus sinaitus)

The Sinai Agama’s natural habitat is bare rocks in the arid, often mountainous or hilly areas. They are a mid-sized species of lizard, with adults measuring up to 20-25 centimeters, with their tail making up 2/3 of their overall length. Their slender limbs and tail allow them to climb and run easily. As cold-blooded animals, they love to bask in the sun during the day and are most active during the warmest hours. Despite their generally peaceful demeanor, they will fiercely defend themselves if threatened. They feed on ants, termites, beetles, grasshoppers, other reptiles, and plants. While typically grey or brown, they can exhibit a variety of color combinations. During the breeding season (spring and early summer), males turn a striking blue color to attract females.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

Desert monitor in Wadi Rum

14 - Desert monitor (Varanus griseus)

The desert monitor is a solitary lizard that roams vast territories in arid sandy deserts, dunes, and grasslands. Its body color ranges from brown and yellow to grey. They have horizontal bands on their back and tail that fade as they age. Adults average about one to two meters in body length. Desert monitors are cold-blooded ectotherms that hibernate from about September to April. They are most active between May and July. They spend most of their time in their burrows, venturing out to bask in the sun and hunt for their favorite food, which includes small mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and other invertebrates. When threatened, they exhibit incredible speed, running over 30 kilometers per hour, or stand their ground and become fiercely aggressive.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: small

common sand fish in Wadi Rum

15 - Common sandfish (Scincus scincus meccensis)

The Common sandfish is a cooled-blooded fossorial skink and can grow up to 20 centimeters long, including its short tail. The Scincus sciences meccensis found in Wadi Rum has a terra-colored back with light orange bands, small brown bands on its grey-white sides, and a white belly. These remarkable desert-dwelling skinks prefer dunes and sparse vegetation. They are exceptional burrowers that can move effortlessly under the sand as if they are swimming. This behavior is facilitated by adaptations such as short, well-developed limbs, a streamlined body, a chisel-shaped snout, bead-like eyes, and tiny nostrils. They are difficult to find because they prefer to spend most of their time under the sand.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: small

Schmidt's fringe-fingered lizard in Wadi Rum

16 - Schmidt's fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus schmidti)

The Schmidt’s fringe-fingered lizard is a lizard that is not bigger than 20 centimeters, including its tail. It is named after the enlarged comb-like scales on its feet, which help it move on sand. These lizards are known for their beautiful tan color with small white spots along the flanks. The blue-colored tail in juveniles is believed to be a safety mechanism to divert predators from attacking their bodies. They live on sandy vegetated plains and dunes with vegetation and make burrows close to the roots of bushes, which provide refuge from predators and extreme temperatures. They feed on insects and other small invertebrates and are active during the day when temperatures are not too high.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

Arabian horned viper in Wadi Rum

17 - Arabian horned viper (Cerastes gasperttii)

The Arabian horned viper is a nocturnal, venomous snake that lays eggs and is typically around 45-50 centimeters long. Their head is wide and triangular in shape, with or without a horn above each eye. They have a thin neck, roundish and stocky body, and a distinct tail in females. The color of their skin varies regionally but is usually tan or pale grey/brown to match their environment. They have one row of dark, wide transverse rectangles running down their back and another row of spots running down each flank. This snake prefers desert and semi-desert areas and mostly lives partially buried in soft sand with only its eyes and snout above the surface. They move by sidewinding and can cover up to one kilometer in search of food. Their diet includes rodents such as jerboas, gerbils, lizards, and birds. When threatened, the Arabian Horned viper curls into a horseshoe shape and rubs its rough scales together to create a loud rasping sound.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: small

Birds of the Wadi Rum desert

The Wadi Rum desert is an important place for desert and mountain birds, boasting an impressive 120 bird species. Out of these, 34 species breed or hold territory in the area, while the rest are either passage migrants or winter visitors. We want to highlight three exceptional bird species found in the desert. If you want to learn more about the birds of Wadi Rum, please visit our blog, ‘Bird watching in Wadi Rum desert’.

Sinai rosefinch in Wadi Rum

18 - Sinai rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus)

The Sinai Rosefinch, Jordan’s national bird, is a small finch with a long tail and a small bill. It is up to 14.5 centimeters in length. Male Sinai Rosefinches have pink faces and breasts with whitish foreheads and crowns. And females are pale gray-brown with whitish bellies. These birds typically reside in rocky areas, wadis, steep cliffs, gorges, and narrow valleys in desert regions with little to no vegetation. They are known to inhabit Wadi Rum and are highly mobile, which makes them difficult to approach. As for their diet, these finches mainly feed on seeds, buds, shoots, and leaves.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: easy

White-crowned wheatear in Wadi Rum

19 - White-crowned wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga)

The white-crowned wheatear is a small bird belonging to the Old World Flycatchers family and is known for its glossy black plumage and mostly white tail. With a size of 17-18 centimeters, this species can be found in rocky deserts, particularly on rocky slopes and steep desert wadis. They are residents of Wadi Rum and have a diet of mainly insects. One distinguishing feature of this wheatear is its loud and varied song, which includes mimicry. During a display flight, the male sings a clear series of whistles and trills. Only adult white-crowned wheatears have a white cap, and males and females have the same plumage.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: easy

20 - Lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni)

The lesser kestrel, a bird of prey belonging to the falcon family, is a small yet graceful creature. It has a 27-33 centimeters length and a wingspan of 63-72 centimeters. The males have blue-grey heads and patches of the same color on their upper wings, along with pale underwings and unspotted above. Females have slightly paler cheeks and an indistinct mustache. These birds are skilled fliers and can capture sizeable insects, reptiles, and rodents while hovering over open terrain. During the breeding season, the lesser kestrels are found in the Palearctic region, including Europe and northern Asia, while they migrate to Africa, south of the Sahara, for the winter. Birdwatchers can spot them in Wadi Rum during their migration in spring and autumn.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: fair

Invertebrates of the Wadi Rum desert

The Wadi Rum Protected Area is a thriving ecosystem home to many arthropod species. With 78 confirmed species, it is an impressive display of nature’s diversity. The Coleoptera, or beetles, reign supreme as the most populous group, boasting an impressive 39 different species. Following closely behind are the arachnids, with 10 confirmed species that include spiders, longlegs, scorpions, mites, and ticks. The remaining 13 families contain six or fewer species, but their presence is no less important to the delicate balance of this unique environment. We have put together a list of five remarkable invertebrates.

21 - Camel spider (Solifugae - Daesiidae)

The Camel spider, also called the Wind spider, Sun spider, or Wind scorpion, is a fascinating arachnid that is not a true spider or scorpion. However, it is more closely related to scorpions than spiders. These spiders are known for their considerable size, which can reach up to 12 centimeters, and intimidating appearance, with large two-segmented jaws and a tan, hairy body. The Camel spiders have six legs and two pedipalps and are primarily active at night, seeking shelter in the shade during the day. They inhabit desert and semi-desert habitats and are carnivorous, preferring insects, lizards, small birds, and rodents as prey. Camel spiders are fast runners with long legs to move quickly and even climb walls and trees. Contrary to popular belief, Camel spiders do not chase humans. They may rather seek refuge in the shade provided by a human’s shadow.
Conservation status: not evaluated
Chance to see them: small

Arabian fat-tailed scorpion in Wadi Rum

22 - Arabian fat-tailed scorpion (Androctonus crassicauda)

The Arabian fat-tailed scorpion is a venomous arachnid found in desert regions. This black species has a total length of 4 and 9 centimeters, a fat tail, and small pincers. They play a crucial role in their ecosystem and are one of the most successful arthropods in desert environments. The Arabian fat-tailed scorpion feeds on various prey, including insects, arthropods, worms, and small reptiles. But can survive without food for months due to their ability to reduce metabolic processes. They can also repair their body and replenish lymphedema fluid, even after exposure to nuclear radiation. Scorpions are primarily nocturnal creatures, avoiding the sun’s rays and moonlight. During the day, they hide in the confines of their burrows, natural cracks, or under rocks and only become active after darkness has fallen.
Conservation status: vulnerable
Chance to see them: small

red-veined dropwing in wadi rum

23 - Red-veined dropwing (Trithemis arteriosa)

The Red-veined dropwing is a species of dragonfly that can be found across Jordan, including Wadi Rum. This species is known for its exceptional adaptability and typically measures 3.8 centimeters in length, with a wingspan of up to 6 centimeters. Males are typically recognized by their red coloration, while females are identifiable through their yellow and black markings. These dragonflies are highly active and can fly over 50 kilometers per hour. Although they tend to reside near water sources for breeding, they can also migrate away from water. These dragonflies are known for their voracious appetites and primarily feed on a wide range of insects, including mosquitoes, ants, flies, fleas, butterflies, and even other dragonflies at times.
Conservation status: least concern
Chance to see them: easy

Arabian darkling beetle in Wadi Rum

24 - Arabian darkling beetle - (Pimelia arabica arabica)

The Arabian darling beetle is a fascinating flightless beetle species commonly found in the sandy areas of Wadi Rum. It is a medium-sized black beetle ranging from 1.5 to 3 centimeters. This beetle’s rows of tubercles on its elytra adorned with hairy spikes make it unique. These tubercles scatter and reflect incoming energy, which is one of their adaptations that helps them survive the harsh desert conditions. They also have special adaptations that allow them to move swiftly in soft sand, leaving tracks varying in width from 30mm to 35mm. They are most active in the early morning and late evening when temperatures are mild. During the hottest hours of the day, they take refuge under the sand. Their diet mainly consists of seeds and leaves, but they are also known to cannibalize other adults, larvae, and eggs during the mating season.
Conservation status: not evaluated
Chance to see them: easy

Domesticated animals of the Wadi Rum desert

Amid all the untamed wildlife, Wadi Rum also boasts a collection of domesticated animals, including sheep, goats, chickens, dogs, and cats. And then there are the camels, a breathtaking sight that captures the heart of anyone who ventures into the desert.

Arabian camel in Wadi Rum

25 - Dromedary, Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius)

The dromedary camel, beloved by us, is the tallest among the three species of camels. It is a one-humped camel with cream to brown colored fur, which is short and thick, protecting it from the sun during daytime and keeping it warm during cold nights. The camel’s long legs have two toes on each foot, which can spread wide to prevent it from sinking into the sand. It has large eyes with good vision, and its large, slit-like nostrils provide an excellent sense of smell, which can be closed during dust storms. It also has two layers of beautiful, long eyelashes. In addition to the food provided by Bedouins, camels forage for grass, leaves, and desert shrubs.
Conservation status: all camels are domesticated
Chance to see them: easy

How to watch wildlife in Wadi Rum

It is crucial to know the amazing and rare animals in our area. Our blog provides valuable information on their habitat, seasonal behavior, and the best time to observe them.

Most likely, animals will detect your presence before you notice them, so it is crucial to be careful. They will observe you and decide whether to stay, defend themselves, or flee. To increase your chances of seeing wildlife, wear camouflaging clothes, avoid scented products, move quietly, and be patient and alert. And when you see wildlife, remember to keep a safe distance not to scare them away.

Capturing your encounters

We recommend bringing binoculars and a 300-400 mm zoom lens camera. You don’t need a map or GPS device, as we know the desert like the back of our hands.

Wadi Rum Nomads tours and seeing wildlife

We offer a range of tour packages that last from one to four days. Although our tours are not specifically designed for wildlife watching, there is a good chance of encountering some animals. If you stay for multiple days, the chances of seeing wildlife increase as you venture deeper into the desert and visit less crowded places.

Increased chance of seeing these amazing and rare animals

Our guides maintain a slow pace to allow you to fully appreciate and experience the desert environment, which further increases your chances of seeing some desert animals along the way. If you are interested in observing wildlife, please inform your guide so he can keep an eye out as well. However, please remember that these animals are wild, and we cannot guarantee their presence. Nevertheless, we will try to find some of them.

Thank you for considering Wadi Rum Nomads for your desert adventure.

Team Wadi Rum Nomads

Sources: amongst others: UNESCO proposal for inclusion of Wadi Rum,,, IUCN National Red data book of mammals in Jordan 2020, ResearchGate,,, Biocyclopedia,,,, and birdlife international.

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