Egypt Wildlife

Egyptian Jackal (Canis aureus lupaster)

The Egyptian Jackal roams the deserts of Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia. Its been spotted in Egypt in the Western Desert, around the Siwa, Dakhla, and Kharga oases, in the Northern Sinai. But it is also occasionally seen near inhabited areas such as  Cairo, Gelbel Asfar, Dahsur, El Fayoum, the Nile Valley, Lake Nasser, Wadi Allaqi, and in the Nile Delta near Wadi Natrun. 

The jackal resembles a large dog in size with tan fur sometimes shading to black. It's different from a dog because its ears are larger and it has a coarse ruff or mane around its throat and down its back. In males it can be even larger, extending from the skull to the base of the tail and onto the shoulders and hips, looking rather like a blanket thrown over its back. Its tail is bristly and relatively short. 

Its a nocturnal animal, traveling and hunting at night. It is omnivorous and can eat just about anything, including rodents, birds, snakes, insect, fruits, vegetables, and grains. They are scavengers and will eat dead animals if they come across them. Jackals living near El Fayoum reportedly live on fish caught in shallow water, while those of the Nile Valley and Delta eat various cultivated crops, fruit, and domestic animals. During the day, the animals shelter in tombs, natural caves, and crevices. They have an average litter size of five to eight pups once a year.

There are currently no protection laws regarding these animals in Egypt, and it's  estimated that there are only 30-50 Egyptian jackals still in existence.


In Egypt, cats were first written about between five and six thousand years ago. They were held in great respect because of their ability to kill mice and rats, which threatened grain stores in ancient Egypt. Egyptians have associated cats with several deities (Bast, Isis, Sekhmet) and have even considered them supernatural. At times in ancient history, it was considered a crime to kill a cat and was punishable by death.

Cats were often mummified and entombed with jewelry or put into their owner’s tomb so they cold be together in the after life. Statues of slim, long-eared cats have become synonymous with Egypt and with the Pharaohs.

It is believed that Romans discovered cats in Egypt and were the first to introduce the species to the rest of the world. In modern Egypt, feral cats can be found in and around every city, some households keeping them as pets whereas dogs are almost never kept as pets.


Egyptian cobras grow to between 5 and 10 feet long. They are known for the wide hood that expands from its head and neck when it wants to appear threatening. Most are some shade of brown, bronze, or copper, with their undersides being lighter in shade. They are poisonous, their venom consisting of neurotoxins and cytotoxins, which affect the nervous system, stopping the nerve signals from being transmitted to the muscles, and at later stages stopping those transmitted to the heart and lungs, causing death due to respiratory failure. Bites cause pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, flesh-necrosis. They can also cause headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, collapse or convulsions along with possible moderate to severe flaccid paralysis. (They do not spit venom.)

Many Egyptologists believe that Cleopatra committed suicide by being bitten by an asp, which was probably an Egyptian cobra, the most common poisonous snake in Egypt at that time.

Pharaohs considered cobras to be a symbol of power and death and had their images carved into jewelry, crowns, statues, and furniture.

In modern times, snake charmers use Egyptian cobras in their acts. The species has large eyes and is very responsive to visual stimuli. A flute, scarf, or earthen jug waved in front of an Egyptian cobra will almost always evoke a defensive display -- the widening of the hood. With careful stimulation, cobras can be induced to hold this defensive posture for hours. A snake charmer’s ability to handle these visually stunning animals is a significant economic aspect of many rural villages since tourists will pay for the entertainment.

Egyptian Fat-tailed Scorpion (androctonus, meaning “man-killer”) is one of the most deadly scorpions in the world. It is found in desert and rocky areas, but can also be found living within close proximity to humans. They can feed on mice, cockroaches, and insects (associated with garbage) and can hide in crevices, like crudely constructed walls, to shelter from intense daylight, climatic conditions and predators. This close association with humans leads to numerous accidental encounters between man and scorpion each year resulting in a small number of cases of severe and fatal stings primarily involving those under fifteen-years of age.

Parabuthus - not fighting, but mating. (Eww, right?)

The Egyptian Scorpion (parabuthus) is found in oases and semi-desert areas near the Nile Delta and Eastern desert. Scorpions are nocturnal and feed on many different animals including insects, spiders, mice, and other scorpions. During the daytime they can be found in their resting areas which include abandoned rodent burrows, the underside of rocks, and virtually any place that will provide protection from the elements and predators.

Crocodiles have been a fixture in the Nile River since recorded history.  In Pharaonic times, rich nobles kept crocodiles in pools as ornamental additions to their homes. High priests kept crocodiles in their temples. They were dressed in jewels and roamed freely. The god of the crocodiles was named Sobek. Due to the construction of the High Dam, crocodiles no longer swim in the Nile. However, they are occasionally displayed in parks and used in shows for tourists.

 (Crocodile show in Sharm El Sheik)
Egypt’s crocodile population was driven to the brink of extinction in the 1950s by hunting and habitat loss. The construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s gave the animal a chance to recover, and its population has grown steadily behind the dam. It's estimated that there are currently about 3,000 crocodiles in Lake Nasser (the reservoir behind the dam), some up to five meters in length. Lake Nasser is some 500 miles long and at the time it was built, it was the world's largest artificial lake.

There are many lizards in Egypt. Some live in the desert, some near the water of oases, and some live in populated areas. The most common is a gecko that has suction pods on its toes so it can climb. Egyptians call them bors. They generally eat insects. One of the ways they catch insects is to position themselves near a light and catch all the flying creatures (mosquitoes, moths, etc.) that flock to the light.

Here's a picture of some big ones, a foot long, who are hanging on the ceiling next to a fluorescent light, waiting to catch their dinner as it flies past.

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