Whilst birding the Abha area recently I came across five Rock Hyrax Procavia capensis jayacari sunning themselves on rock boulders, but they appeared very shy and soon disappeared. This animal is diurnal and they live in groups where they occupy a wide range of habitats, from arid deserts to rainforest, occurring from sea level to 4,300 m but are dependent on the presence of suitable refuges in rocky outcrops and mountain cliffs. It requires numerous cavities and crevices that are large enough to shelter in, but small enough to discourage predators.
These cavities often face away from prevailing winds, have good visibility of the surrounding habitat, and are close to sunlit areas for basking and suitable foraging areas as it needs easy access to basking spots when it is cold, as well as deep crevices to escape excessive heat. When it emerges from its burrow it often spends one or two hours basking in the sun to warm up before going foraging for food. Their diet comprises a variety of grasses and shrubs, with a predilection for new shoots, buds, fruits and berries.
They have a poor ability to regulate their body temperature and a low metabolic rate for their body size. Body temperature is maintained mainly by gregarious huddling, long periods of inactivity, and basking. They are all small to medium-sized herbivores (1.5-5 kg), with short legs, a rudimentary tail, and round ears. Rock hyrax are native to Saudi Arabia the Arabian Peninsula and throughout Africa.
In Saudi Arabia it is generally recorded from the west of the country in the mountains. Due to its wide geographical range and high numbers where it is found the species is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. The subspecies found in Saudi Arabia isProcavia capensis jayacariand are distinguished fromProcavia capensis capensisof Africa by their relatively pale dorsal spot, which is black in most African subspecies.
Jem Babbington is a keen birder and amateur photographer located in Dhahran, Eastern Saudi Arabia where he goes birding every day. Jem was born in England and is a serious local patch and local area birder who has been birding for almost forty years and has birded in more than fifty countries. Jem is learning to ring birds in Bahrain as a perfect way to learn more about the birds of the area. Saudi Arabia is a very much under-watched and under-recorded country.
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