Low-relief, chert 'hammada' desert at 500-600 m intersected by broad, sandy wadi spreads draining into Qa al Azraq and only flowing after occasional winter or spring floods. Shaumari Wildlife Reserve (31°48'N 36°49'E, 2,200 ha) is strongly fenced to exclude domestic livestock and trespassers, and the vegetation is in markedly better condition than in the adjacent Azraq Desert Grazing Reserve (32,000 ha) and other surrounding, grazed areas. The Grazing Reserve was also fenced but this is now in disrepair. Wadis are dominated by sparse scrub of Tamarix, Retama, Amygdalus, Artemisia, Achillea and Atriplex, which however forms relatively luxuriant bushland within the Wildlife Reserve; there are flat gravel and silt areas in between wadis. Wadi al Butm (31°50'N 36°35'E, 1,000 ha; also called Wadi Usaymir), in the Grazing Reserve, is notable for the mature Pistacia atlantica trees which line it, and has occasional flood-pools in winter. The HQ of the Wildlife Reserve has many eucalyptus and casuarina trees. Main human activities are nomadic pastoralism, tourism (frescos at Qasr Amra) and picnicing.
See box for key species. A representative desert bird community, with potentially up to nine breeding lark species including Ramphocoris clotbey and Eremophila bilopha. Other known or probable breeding species include Buteo rufinus, Alectoris chukar, Cursorius cursor, Pterocles orientalis, P. alchata, Tyto alba, Oenanthe deserti, O. moesta, Scotocerca inquieta, Lanius excubitor, Rhodopechys githaginea and R. obsoleta. Winter visitors include Eudromias morinellus, Columba oenas (500, December), Asio otus (a roost at the HQ) and Miliaria calandra (300, January); the wintering flock of Grus grus (see box) also frequents Azraq oasis (see site 009). The area is visited by a wide variety of migrants, including Circus pygargus (8, September), Streptopelia turtur (150, May), Oenanthe cypriaca (one record) and Emberiza caesia. Reintroduction of Struthio camelus is ongoing.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Caracal caracal (rare); reintroduction of extinct fauna such as Oryx leucoryx (currently c.130 individuals), Gazella subgutturosa and Equus hemionus onager is ongoing. Reptiles: Varanus griseus (rare) probably occurs.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Shaumari Wildlife Reserve was established in 1975, and is managed by the RSCN as a re-introduction site for previously extinct fauna, as well as a wildlife education centre for school-children and tourists. Azraq Desert Grazing Reserve was established in 1987 by the Department of Forests of the Ministry of Agriculture in order to extend the available area for future re-introduction of Oryx leucoryx and other extinct desert ungulates. There are probably no threats to the Wildlife Reserve, but the surrounding desert in the Grazing Reserve is heavily grazed by sheep and goats and soil erosion is exacerbated. The Pistacia trees in Wadi al Butm are heavily browsed by goats and camels, and cutting of branches for bedu fires and picnic fires is unsustainable.