James borrell is a conservation scientist and science communicator, with a particular interest in how species adapt to changing climate.

Empty Quarter Expedition: Oman

On January the 8th, I depart with a team from across the UK on an expedition to the Empty Quarter and Dhofar Mountains of Oman. Our primary aim is to establish the presence of the critically endangered Arabian Leopard, a subspecies thought to number less than 200 in the wild. We will also be conducting a baseline biodiversity survey in this little explored region whilst working with Omani scientists, rangers and students to support conservation in this unique area.

Here’s the plan:

Initially we will travel by 4×4 to Al Hashman, on the edge of Empty Quarter. Here we will be immersed in a thoroughly different way of life and work to survey this apparently barren landscape whilst traveling through it on foot.

We will then head South to the coast. Here we will transport all our kit along to a remote beach with the assistance of local fishermen. Base camp will be established high up on the beach, at the base of Wadi Sayq where we know there is a small source of fresh water. From this base we will attempt to penetrate up the Wadi and it’s side channels, laying camera traps and looking for tracks. We will also survey reptiles, mammal, bird and insect populations and verify reports of cave art high up in the cliffs.

One of the biggest factors is water, if we can find another source high up in the Wadi then we will have much more flexibility. If not, then it’s back to good old hard work, and we might have to lay caches.

With a bit of luck we’ll be able to send back blogs, and maybe a few photo’s if the gods of satellite comms smile down on us.

Please follow our progress, our success really depends on your support. Few people are aware of the plight of the Arabian Leopard, this is something we hope to change. You can read updates here.

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