Flora & Fauna
Kuwait’s natural environment was devastated by the oil pollution resulting from the destruction of oil wells during the Gulf War in 1991. However, the flora and fauna has proved to be remarkably resilient, although the impact of unrestricted hunting and encroaching urban development is creating new problems.
Kuwait is home to a surprising number of species, all of which have adapted to the temperature extremes. There are some 400 species of indigenous plants and flowers, including the purple Desert Iris, Desert Hyacinth and Rimth. The best time to view these plants and flowers is from January to March, after the rains, when the desert comes to life. Only one species of tree, the Talha (Acacia), is native to Kuwait.
Indigenous fauna includes 38 species of reptiles and 28 species of mammals. On rare occasions you will find gazelles, the Honey Badger, Fennec Fox, Kangaroo Rat and Dhub – a spiny tailed lizard. Further desert life includes snakes (some harmless, some extremely venomous), lizards, geckos, hedgehogs, skunks, wild cats, wild hares and a number of invertebrates.
Almost 300 species of bird have been recorded in Kuwait, the majority of which are migratory. Kuwait has a number of Middle East IBAs (Important Bird Areas), eight of which play a significant role in bird conservation. Bird species visible in Kuwait, although not regularly, include the Greater Spotted Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Houbara Bustard and Socotra Cormorant. All are listed as VU (Vulnerable). The Basra Reed-Warbler is listed as EN (Endangered) due to the extensive draining of its breeding habitat, as is the Saker Falcon as numbers have fallen considerably due to the unregulated capture for the falconry trade across the region.
Migrating species include the Golden Oriole, House Sparrow and Rose-ringed Parakeet. Species common to Kuwait include the Desert Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Flamingo and Brown-necked Raven.
Kuwait’s marine environment plays host to a wide range of sea life, some of which is seasonal, including a variety of fish, whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, sea snakes and 21 species of coral unique to the Arabian Gulf.
The turtle species are under threat as a result of urban expansion and pollution from ballast dumped by oil tankers. Kuwait has suffered from wide-scale fish deaths as a result of toxic algal bloom and bacteria. The fishing season is restricted to allow for specific species to breed successfully.
The Municipality spends a great deal of time beautifying the landscape by planting grass, flowers and trees in urban areas. It is a very common sight to see hordes of municipality employees working on the roadsides, maintaining flower beds and watering plants and trees from huge water tankers. It is still difficult to understand why most watering is done during the day in the summer when a large percentage of the water must be lost to evaporation. Most of the older areas of the city and it surrounds have wonderful gardens full of old trees. Kuwait has a large number of well-kept public parks, although it is best to steer clear of them the day after a weekend or public holiday when the vast amounts of litter are being cleared.