Plants and Animals found in Wadi Rum

Although Wadi Rum appears to be an arid barren landscape to most visitors. It hosts a variety of endemic plant and animal species. There are rare plant species in the less accessible high rocky mountains of Wadi Rum. For most commonly seen species are anabasis and similar sand dune affixing shrubs. However in winter and spring following seasonal rains the valleys fill with wild flowers. One of the most visually appealing plant species in Wadi Rum are the now rare acacias which are commanding as the only trees to grow in the valleys of Wadi Rum. Their umbrella shape provides shade and a picturesque contrast against the towering red cliffs surrounding them.

The animal species of Wadi Rum are also diverse and endemic to the area. Discounting the domesticated species, most of the species are rare or extinct following the rapid introduction of firearms of motorised vehicles during the British protectorate. Most of the still abundant species are nocturnal, while the now rare species remain mostly in the less accessible mountainous areas in the south of the Protected Area.

starry skies wadi rum desert nights


Among bird species are found in Wadi Rum, include breeding populations of several large birds of prey. The raptors are among the best known species and can often be seen circling overhead. In addition to resident populations, over 100 migratory species have been identified. Although dozens of raptors have been identified, Wadi Rum is considered one of the best locations in the world to see the Sooty Falcon. Likewise it is one of few locations in the Arabian peninsula that has records of the Verraux Eagle. Along with the circling raptors overhead there are an abundance of sparrow like birds including the national bird of Jordan, the rose-finch. These birds are those that will most commonly be seen up close by visitors to Wadi Rum.

List of Selected Birds of Wadi Rum

  • Barbary Falcon: The barbary falcon is a smaller species of Peregrine falcon. Peregrine falcons are known to be the fastest bird on earth reaching speeds near 400km per hour while diving for prey.

  • Brown Necked Raven: commonly sighted throughout Wadi Rum. The raven is often seen fighting with other birds and is considered a major threat to domestic pigeons.

  • Desert Lark: a very common medium sized bird that has a distribution from Morocco to India. It is one of the most commonly sighted birds in Wadi Rum.

  • Eagle Owl: Although common across Europe and Asia, the eagle owl is ever appreciated due to its size and distinct ear tufts. The eagle owl is nocturnal primarily hunting gerbils but can be seen resting on posts during the day.

  • Hooded Wheatear: a rarely sighted species of flycatcher. The Hooded Wheatear is a predominantly black bird with a white belly and crown. It is found in arid mountain climates across southern Asia.

  • House Bunting: small bird found commonly throughout the rocky arid areas of Mediterranean Africa.

  • Lesser Kestrel: small falcon that migrates south to Africa during colder winter months.

  • Long-legged Buzzard: one of the most commonly sighted birds of prey. The colouring of this bird varies greatly with patterns of white and browns ranging from light usually across the body and dark along the edge of the wings.

  • Rock Martin: A swallow species that is unusually comfortable in locations distant from water. Commonly found in southern and central Africa, Wadi Rum is one of the most northern locations to record the Rock Martin. Slightly smaller than the southern varieties and with a distinct flight pattern with rapid flapping wings followed by gliding. It flies much slower than the other small bird varieties common in the area.

  • Scrub Warbler: a small finch like bird which is designated its own classification family. The Scrub Warbler is light brown with darker brown streaks and has a very distinct and prolonged sound.

  • Sinai Rose-finch: The national bird of Jordan is commonly seen in Wadi Rum. A small agile bird with distinct red colouring, and a cautious yet inquisitive nature. Most lunchtimes they fly into the tent apprehensively collecting crumbs and .

  • Sooty Falcon: A relatively rare falcon listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. This is a medium sized falcon. It is recognisable for its slim body and longer tail. Wadi Rum is considered one of the best locations in the world to see the Sooty Falcon.

  • Tristram’s grackle: A small predominantly black bird with orange along its wings. The bird nests in the cliffs above Wadi Rum and has a loud two part whistle. Also known as Tristam’s starling this is one of the most commonly seen birds in Wadi Rum.

  • Trumpeter-Finch: a grey brown bill with a distinct orange red beak. The bird is recognisable for the trill sound which leads to its name.

  • Verraux Eagle: The Verraux eagle is a large black migratory eagle that is commonly found in southern Africa. Wadi Rum is one of the most northern locations that the eagle has been located. The Verraux eagles population has been recorded to be closely linked to Hyrax populations across Africa, which can be found in Wadi Rum.

  • White-Crowned Black Wheatear: very similar bird to the rarer hooded Wheatear. This bird also has a white crown and white on the underside of its tail.

unusual desert flora in Wadi Rum spring time

Ground Animals

Fossil remains of brown bears, lions, zebras, elephants and rhinoceros have been discovered in Jordan. However human habitation reaching back nearly 100,000 years has forced these animals into regional extinction. Of the 26 mammal species that remain in Wadi Rum, 13 are considered rare or endangered within Jordan.

List of Animals of Wadi Rum

  • Blanford’s Fox: a small fox species with distinctively large ears and long tails. The majority of this species live in Iran and Afghanistan. This fox is known to be particularly agile and is accomplished at climbing rocks. Unlike the red fox which is often seen wandering through the vast valleys around dawn and dust the Blanford’s Fox more commonly remains on the rocky cliffs.

  • Caracal: A large cat with a length of over 70 centimetres plus a 30cm tail. The cats are sandy coloured with tufts at the ends of their ears and black markings around their eyes and ears. The caracal is capable of hunting large prey, however predominantly targets smaller animals such as hyrax, hares, birds and rodents.

  • Cheeseman’s Gerbil:A small rodent with a large eyes and long tail that is nocturnal. When driving at night they can be seen frequently seen running away from the headlights

  • Hare: the larger relative of the rabbit can be found in the mountainous rugged areas of the Wadi Rum Protected Area.

  • Hedgehog: The desert hedgehog can be found throughout the Arabian peninsula and northern Africa. The hedgehog is nocturnal and leaves distinctive tracks in the sand.

  • Rock Hyrax: Medium sized rodents who live in rocky landscapes at altitude across Africa and the Middle East. The Hyrax live in family groups of approximately 10 and are nearest terrestrial relative to the elephant. Hyrax should not be touched as they are carriers for a flesh eating parasite.

  • Golden Jackal: sometimes also referred to as the Asiatic Jackal, is a canine species smaller than the wolves but larger than the foxes. The jackal’s shape is more similar to the wolf and its is not as easily sighted as the fox.

  • Red Fox: particulalry easily sighted in spring with young pups. The fox lives in burrows and caves which are easily identified from their tracks in the mornings.

Rare and Threatened species

  • Striped Hyena: The striped Hyena is spread across a large geographic area encompassing north and east Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia and the Subcontinent. The global population is considered near threatened by the IUCN. The Arabian subspecies is currently limited to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman and UAE. The striped hyena is protected within Jordan and rare sightings have been made including in Amman.

  • Nubien Ibex: a mountain goat species that can reach 50kg with thick ribbed horns. Historically the ibex has been abundant in the area however with access to firearms in the 20th century the population was rapidly reduced by over hunting.

  • Arabian Wolf: The Arabian Wolf is the smallest wold species and is adapted to desert climates with limited water. Historically more prevalent in the Wadi Rum area, wolves have retreated to less populated areas deeper in the mountainous regions south-east of Wadi Rum. With the proliferation of firearms in the middle east early in the 20th century, livestock herders hunted wolf populations that threatened their animals.

  • Sand Gazelle: Listed as a threatened species by IUCN, there is estimated to be only a few thousand wild gazelles spread across regions from Turkey to Oman. There are however a large population of captive animals that are part of established breeding programs.

  • Sand Cat: This is a small feline species that looks similar to domestic cats. Their population spans far across desert regions of Asia and Africa and their biggest threats are interbreeding and disease spread from domestic cats.

Recently extinct species

  • Arabian Leopard: During the first half of the 20th century the mountainous region of the trans-Jordan had numerous leopards. The Arabian Leopard was widely distributed along the east coast of the Red Sea as late as the 1960’s. The leopard is now critically endangered with an estimated population of 200 concentrated in Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman. The last confirmed sighting in Jordan was in 1987.

  • Arabian Oryx: The Arabian Oryx is a highly regarded animal in the middle east, it is the national animal of Jordan, Oman, UAE, Bahrain and Qatar and is the logo for many major corporations. It is also widely represented in ancient inscriptions and motifs of ancient structures. The Arabian Oryx was extinct in the wild since early in the 20th century the Arabian Oryx is now part of breeding programs in Jordan. After many decades of absence a donation from breeding programs in UAE allowed populations to be reintroduced into Jordan.

  • Arabian Ostrich: documented widely in ancient rock inscriptions the ostrich is now extinct. The last record of the animal globally was in Jordan in 1966. The closest living relative is the north African red necked ostrich.

Snakes in Wadi Rum

Snakes are relatively rare in Wadi Rum, throughout the year we will see a couple at most. They are shy and mostly remain in the high rocky areas that have little human activity. It is very rare for visitors to see snakes during their visit to Wadi Rum and uncommon to see snake trails. Because of the sandy landscape it is immediately recognisable if a snake has been in the area and they are easily found. Few of the species found in Jordan are venomous and deaths from snake bites are nearly unheard of in Jordan.

Venomous Species

  • Sand horned viper: usually around half a metre in length with rough scales and a large flat head. The snake has a pale yellow colouration and is well disguised in the desert. The Wadi Rum population does not have the horns that are representative of the species more broadly. The snake is not considered deadly although the venom is toxic and immediate treatment must be taken for any bites.

  • Field’s horned viper: Difficult to differentiate from the sand horned viper. This species varies marginally with its scale pattern however the main difference is in the venom. The Field’s horned viper produces nuerotoxic venom opposed to the hemotoxic venom of the other horned viper species.

  • Painted saw-scaled viper: This viper produces a sizzling warning sound and has unique colouring that lends its name and makes it easily identifiable. Although deaths from saw-scaled vipers have been recorded they are predominantly in Africa where no medical treatment is sought. Symptoms can persist for days and it is important even when effects seem mild to seek medical attention.

  • False Cobra: also known as the Hooded Malpolon, gains its name from its behaviour to stand spread its neck and hiss despite not being a Cobra. The snake can grow over 1 metre and has a chequered light brown and sandy colouring. The Malpolon’s venom is not deadly but does cause pain at the location of the bite and medical attention should be sought.

Non-venomous species

  • Beaked Thread Snake: A species often confused with earthworms. They are long slender and live predominantly underground. The Beaked Thread Snake is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

  • Crowned dwarf racer: a short thin snake less than 30cm in length. They have a brown neck and are referred to as being leaf nosed. The colours are a mosaic of red, yellow and brown. The Crowned Dwarf Racer is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

  • Elegant Racer: a visually attractive snake with black and yellow bands. The snake is nocturnal and is known as the most beautiful snake in Jordan. The elegant racer is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

  • Jan’s Cliff Racer: also known as Jan’s Desert Racer or the Braid Snake. The Cliff Racer is a long thin chequered brown colour. Jan’s Cliff Snake is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

  • Javelin Sand Boa: The snake was spread throughout the Mediterranean having used it as a projectile onto enemy vessels to create confusion during conflict. The snake has a thick shape and large variation in colour. The Javelin Sand Boa is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

  • Royal Snake: also known as Clifford’s snake. Snake can grow up to 1 metre long and is greyish brown with colour variation throughout. The royal snake is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

  • Schokari Sand Racer: a very thin dark coloured snake with a light belly. This snake is non venomous and is harmless to humans

  • Sinai Banded Snake: also known as the Coluber Sinai. This snake is similar to the Elegant Racer however the yellow colouration is less bright and prominent. The elegant racer is non venomous and is harmless to humans.

Other reptiles

Wadi Rum has a number of small lizard and gecko species that are frequently seen throughout the Protected Area.

Scorpions in Wadi Rum

Scorpion’s are rarely seen in Wadi Rum and mostly hide under rocks. The population of scorpions are considered more dangerous than the snake species and are more common. Although it is rare to see a scorpion and they will attempt to escape if you do disturb one it is wise to remain vigilant.

Highly venomous scorpion species

  • Androctonus bicolour: also known as the ‘black fat tailed scorpion’ is a black large scorpion around 9cm long with a prominent tail. This scorpion is particularly dangerous and antivenom should be sought immediately.

  • Androctonus crassicauda: also known as the ‘arabian fat tailed scorpion’ is visually near identical to the black fat tailed scorpion. This species is slightly larger and can reach lengths over 10cm. Both far tailed scorpions are highly venomous and stings can be deadly without antivenom treatment.

  • Leiurus quinquestriatus/hebraeus: also known as the ‘death stalker’ is a small yellow scorpion around 6cm long. The claws are long narrow and fragile. The venom from this scorpion is toxic and is resistent to antivenom so stings should be treated as a medical emergency.

Other prevalent Scorpion species in Wadi Rum

  • Buthacus: a small yellow scorpion with 5cm long slender body. Venom is of medium potency.

  • Scorpio Maurus: also known as ‘large clawed scorpion’ is a light brown coloured medium sized scorpion around 7cm long. The scorpion has large lobster like claws and is more inclined to use its claws than stinger compared to other species. They produce a mild neurotoxic venom that is harmless to humans.

  • Buthus occitanus: a brown scorpion 7cm long with a oval shaped torso. The venom of this scopion is mild however can cause pain.


The most common insect in Wadi Rum is the Blaps Beetles. These small beetles leave distinctive tracks in the sand.

Domestic Animals

Most of the animals you will see in Wadi Rum will be those of the herding Bedouin families. Throughout your visit you will see significant numbers of camels, goats, and sheep. Many herding families also have dogs, pigeons and chickens although these do not graze freely in the valleys are may be less obvious.

Alameleh Inscriptions Wadi Rum

Plants in Wadi Rum

The vegetation that exists in the sandy valleys makes up the majority of plant life in Wadi Rum. Thesand dune vegetation is predominantly shrubs that sparsely populate the valley floors. The few trees that remain in Wadi Rum are premoninantly acacia, these trees are impressive in their isolation in the desert. The remaining vegetation is represented by Hammada which encompassed the species that grow amongst the rocky landscapes throughout jordan and are intermittently present in some rocky areas of Wadi Rum. In spring wild flowers appear throughout the desert with predominantly purples and white emerging throughout the valleys. Wadi Rum represents 3 of the 13 vegetation types that have been identified in Jordan.

  • Sand Dune Vegetation: predominantly low shrubs with root systems able to secure themselves in fine sand. This type of vegetation makes up almost 80% of the Wadi Rum landscapes.

  • Acacia Vegetation: located in the rocky mountainous areas of Wadi Rum

  • Hammada Vegetation: This is the most common vegetation type throughout Jordan however is relatively less common than the sand dune vegetation within Wadi Rum

Significant plant species found in Wadi Rum

  • White Saxaul: a commonly seen shrub that has long succulent branches and produces flowers in late spring. The plant is resilient to drought and developed a strong root system underground. The wood from the root system is highly valued for carpentry and a source of fuel.

  • Anabasis: a prominent shrub found throughout Wadi Rum. The main plain at the mid point of the Wadi Rum valley named Khor al Ajram is named after this plant. The Arabic name is Ajram.

  • Retama: known as broom bushes this shrub produces white flowers in spring.

  • Calligonum: another shrub low to the ground with long flexible woody branches

  • Hammada scopiara: from the same family as the more numerous white saxaul.

  • Acacia raddiana: few of these trees remain in the wadi rum area however there scarcity adds to their beauty as you find them standing alone in vast valleys with no flora above 1 metre in height.

  • Juniperus phoenica: Although you will not see these while travelling through the valleys of Wadi Rum, they exist in some of the higher mountains. The juniper is considered of significance because they are geographically isolated from other Juniper species and the broader region is considered inhospitable to juniper.

Wild flowers

Wild flowers appear in late winter and dependent on rain remain throughout spring. Mostly purple and white flowers cover the valley floor however yellow and pink flowers appear in some locations.

Colchicum Crocus: the plant initially appears as several green shoots. The flowers emerge from between the green leaves. This is the primary flower species that covers the valley.

Cistanche: A short stem covered in violet and white flowers from its base is a parasitic plant that draws it nutrients from the roots of an adjacent host plant.

We welcome any knowledgeable visitors to stay with us during Spring in exchange for information regarding the specific species of wildflowers that occur in Wadi Rum.

Medicinal plants

Within the flora of Wadi rum there are 25 species considered medicinal – modern medicine is researching anti inflammatory properties of many of these species. Ancient medicine in the Arabian peninsula would prescribe these plants for use as treatments for common ailments.

Hyssop: good for blood circulation and treatment for sore throat and coughing

Sage: used to settle stomach

Wormwood: used to treat abrasions

Desert Broom: high in antioxidants used for joint and muscle pain