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Flora & Fauna in Oman

Desert shrub and desert grass, common to southern Arabia, are found, but vegetation is sparse in the interior plateau, which is largely gravel desert. However, the greater monsoon rainfall in Dhofar and the mountains makes the growth there more luxuriant during summer.

Oman has around 1,200 native plant species. Of the indigenous flora, date palms provide oases of green covering about 49% of Oman’s cultivated area. The deserts are fairly barren but after a bout of rain they are dotted with wild flowers. Coconut trees, banana trees and other tropical fruit trees thrive well in the subtropical climate of Salalah.

Oman is home to the frankincense tree, which grows only in Dhofar, the Wadi Hadhramaut in Yemen, and Somalia. They are short trees with a gnarled trunk and silver-green leaves. Incisions are made on the bark to collect the aromatic resin. For centuries, frankincense was more valuable than gold and Dhofar frankincense was said to be the finest and purest in the world. It was used not only as a fragrance, but also to embalm corpses and as a medicine. The frankincense trade brought immense wealth and importance to southern Arabia.

Mangrove trees used to cover large stretches of Oman’s coast but have been threatened with extinction in many areas. Some of the most beautiful and dense mangrove forests today are found in the Qurum Nature Reserve in the heart of Muscat, and at Mahawt Island, 400 km south of the capital. The Qurum Nature Reserve contains an important site where prehistoric fishermen exploited mangrove resources, and a nursery that produces seedlings for replanting. Thanks to urgent conservation measures, mangrove forests now cover about 1,088 hectares of Oman’s coastline.

Indigenous mammals include the leopard, hyena, fox, wolf, hare, oryx and Nubian ibex. Some 460 species of birds (of which 80 are resident) are found at different times of the year; birds include the vulture, eagle, stork, bustard, Arabian partridge, bee eater, falcon and sunbird. In 2001, Oman had nine endangered species of mammals and five endangered types of birds and 19 threatened plant species. Decrees have been passed to protect endangered species, including the Arabian leopard, Arabian oryx, mountain gazelle, goitred gazelle, Arabian tahr, green sea turtle, hawksbill turtle and Olive Ridley turtle. However, the Oman Arabian oryx sanctuary is the first site ever to be deleted from UNESCO's World Heritage List due to the government's decision to reduce the site to 10% of its former size so that the remainder could be opened to oil prospectors.





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