Articles about QNHG

A Walk Through Time  (click to read)

Publish date: Sunday 16 MAR 2014 By Fran Gillespie / Doha
An article about geologist and fossil-hunter Jacques LeBlanc and  a recent field trip with the QNHG 


Publish Date: Sunday,10 June, 2012, at 12:00 AM Doha Time

Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi of  Qatar  University’s Department of Biological Sciences spoke about the recent research carried out by himself and his students.
The Ethiopian Hedgehog is one of three Arabian species, and is found all over N orth Africa and the  Arabian Peninsula.
One of the students caught several hedgehogs and kept them in a pen for study. From this she was able to discover what time of day or night the animals are active, and that they do indeed hibernate during the coldest days, just as do hedgehogs in Europe. Study then moved to the University Farm in north Qatar where students made numerous field trips to observe the hedgehogs at night, as they are mainly nocturnal.

An Ethiopian Hedgehog being examined by researchers at the Qatar University farmAn Ethiopian Hedgehog being examined by researchers at the Qatar University farm
  Animals were weighed, sexed and their spines marked with nail polish in different colours before being released. In three months, 48 different animals were caught and marked, all within the boundaries of the farm. Baby hedgehogs were most numerous in May and June, and from this it was concluded that the parents mated in late March soon after emerging from hibernation.
The next stage was to track the hedgehogs’ nightly movements, using tiny radio antennae which were glued onto the backs of the animals, remaining there for about a month before being shed as the spines renewed themselves. “This is the first time radio tracking of these animals has been conducted anywhere in GCC countries,” observed Dr Yamaguchi. The distance travelled by these fast-moving creatures astonished the researchers: one animal travelled 1,500m in 15 minutes.
Male hedgehogs during the mating season covered enormous areas. And not only in search of mates – “word” spread among the hedgehog population that feral cats were being fed nightly at a neighbouring farm, and hedgehogs would travel to the farm to claim their share of the hand-outs.
Hedgehogs are omnivorous, and will consume anything edible that they can find.
“We also wanted to find out what type of ground surface is preferred by hedgehogs for their burrows and nesting chambers,” said the speaker.
“We realised that ground that has been disturbed by humans makes for easier digging, and therefore piles of building rubble, or earth moved by road building, are attractive to them.”
The Qatar Natural History Group was founded in 1978 and since then has held regular programmes of monthly lectures.
This year and the next there will be two field trips a month to places of interest, plus camping and dhow trips and overseas excursions.
For more information visit 

  Qatar Archeological Site in the News (BBC)

Lost town unearthed in Qatar by Lampeter archaeologist (Dr Andrew Petersen who presented to us about this site in May 2010


Images of Arabia - a window into Saudi
Publish Date: Saturday,9 May, 2009

 By Fran Gillespie    

The Qatar Natural History Group held its May meeting on Wednesday evening, at which former chairwoman Renee Hughes presented a selection of her photographs entitled ‘Images of Arabia’.
Hughes is Assistant Director of Nursing at ASPETAR but before coming to Qatar she  lived in Saudi Arabia for fourteen years, travelling far and wide off the beaten track with a group of friends. Her journeys took her from gigantic rolling dunes of red sand, over which camel trains slowly plodded, to canyons whose sheer cliffs soared to dizzying heights, to the extraordinary landscape of extinct volcanoes, including underground lava tubes.
Because visits by individual tourists are not encouraged by the government of Saudi Arabia, relatively few people have had the chance to visit this vast and enigmatic land. For most, mental images of the Kingdom are of deserts and camels, black clad veiled women and men in thobes, and the tower blocks of cities that have sprung up since the coming of the oil wealth. 
Hughes’ presentation showed that there is far more to the country than this. She met people who dressed more like Scotsmen than Arabs, in colourful striped kilts, bedouin women at the wheel of pick-up trucks despite the ban on female driving, villagers whose multi-storey mud-brick houses teetered on the edge of mountain precipices, and tribespeople who lived so far from any settlement that they had never before seen Westerners.
Everywhere there were the bedouin, for the most part friendly, hospitable and curious. They ranged from wealthy camel owners who travelled from camp to camp in vast mobile homes on wheels, replete with every modern convenience, to tent dwellers so poor that the family owned just one aluminium bowl from which they all took turns to eat their scanty meals.
Besides images of the modern inhabitants of Saudi Arabia, Hughes’ presentation included photographs of relics left by the people who lived there for thousands of years. In the 9th century AD a pilgrimage trail led from Baghdad to Mecca, and Queen Zubaydah, wife of a caliph of the time, set up shelters at intervals. The ruins of these places of refuge, where the faithful could shelter from marauding bedouin, can still be seen. But long before this, the Nabateans built their astonishingly elaborate temple tombs in cliffs, similar to the more famous tombs of Petra in Jordan, and even the Romans left their mark, with a temple constructed on the orders of the emperor Marcus Aurelius.
Everywhere in Arabia where there are hills or mountains there are rock carvings, and Hughes showed a selection of these, of hunters and their prey – wild cattle, ostriches, water fowl, and strange cryptic markings in an unknown script. The most recent carvings depict guns and aeroplanes, the earliest date back to an age before metal was discovered, when what is now arid desert was a green and pleasant land through which the hunting tribes wandered with their bows and arrows, or camped beside fast-flowing rivers.
The final meeting of the QNHG for the 2008/2009 season will be on Wednesday June 3 at 7.30pm at the Doha English Speaking School. Environmental engineer Katrin Scholz-Barth will give a presentation on ‘Green Infrastructure in Qatar and the Middle East’. QNHG will resume its activities in October.

From the Gulf Times: 19 April 2009

QNHG visits Arabian Oryx breeding centre

QNHG chairman Michael Lesser with Dr Kassem Nasser al-Qahtani, Director of the Department of Animal Resources, and Dr Abdul Moti, Director of the Arabian Oryx Breeding  
 By Fran Gillespie
Yesterday around 100 members of the Qatar Natural History Group visited the Arabian Oryx Breeding Centre (AOBC) near Sheehaniya in the centre of the Qatar peninsula. They were met and welcomed by Dr Kassem Nasser al-Qahtani, the Director of the Department of Animal Resources and a former director of the AOBC.
Dr Abdul Moti, the present director of the AOBC, gave a presentation to the group of visitors on the efforts which have been made to rescue the species from what was at one time extinction in the wild due to hunting and destruction of its natural habitat, and to eventually release it into large, carefully maintained reserves.
 From less than 150 animals, Dr Moti said, there are now over 1,000 being cared for at the breeding centre and at reserves within Qatar at Sheehaniya,  Ras Ushaijrij and al-Maszhabiya.
After watching a video on the oryx project and on the efforts being made by the Ministry of the Environment to preserve habitat for it and other endangered species, the group toured the AOBC and were given the opportunity to have close-up views of the herds of oryx and rheem gazelle. The gazelle, which became extinct in Qatar in the 1950s, has now been successfully released into open protected areas and stock is numbered at around 4,000.
Qatar was the first country in the Arab region to breed the Arabian oryx in captivity, and what was begun as a hobby by the late Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani was later taken over by the government. 
The Arabian Oryx Breeding Centre is run by the Department of Wildlife Conservation of the Ministry of the Environment, and is one of a few sites in the Middle East which have been established to prevent the extinction of the Arabian oryx. Healthy breeding stock is regularly exchanged with reserves in the UAE and Oman so as to avoid inbreeding.
The QNHG would like to thank Drs Kassem al-Qahtani and Abdul Moti for the successful visit.


Gulf Times 12 April 2009: Postcards from the Nature Trail
Examining the work of wildlife photographers Jens and Hanne Erikson

A step up for Qatar Natural History Group
By Fran Gillespie
Members of Qatar Natural History Group (QNHG) took a step up this weekend – literally! Stranded in Al Khor by the unexpectedly heavy rain on Friday morning. Members who had planned a wildlife photography workshop with the eminent visiting Danish photographers Jens and Hanne Eriksen were forced to take shelter and hold the event in the stairwell of a block of flats.
The Eriksens, who have lived in Oman and the UAE for more than 20 years and are famed for their photographs, published in countless books and on stamps, coins and bank notes, had given a presentation on wildlife photography to the QNHG on Wednesday evening, attended by almost 150 people.
On Friday morning an early trip to sites around Al Khor was on schedule for Qatar’s dedicated birders, followed by a photography session when the Eriksens were slated to demonstrate their state-of-the-art Canon and Nikon cameras and give tips to the photography enthusiasts. This was intended to take place on one of the birding sites around Al Khor.
But nature intervened. It is not often that it rains in Qatar, but Friday was an exception. The rain steadily increased, and with cameras worth thousands of dollars, the experts could not risk any damage to their equipment.
Finding somewhere under cover on a Friday morning in Al Khor is a problem. There are no hotels or public meeting rooms, and the schools are closed. The palm-thatched shelters along the sea front, intended for protection from the sun but not the rain, all leak. One possibility was a restaurant or juice stall, but these proved to be all shut for the duration of the prayer time.
But any port in a storm! Finally the group of bedraggled but enthusiastic photographers crowded into the stairwell of a modest residential block on the main street, where for the next two hours the Eriksens held court, to the surprise of the residents, demonstrated their photographic skills and answered innumerable questions. All agreed that it had been well worth the journey from Doha, despite the unusual and unscheduled venue.

30, and still going strong  By Fran Gillespie 
Qatar Natural History Group holds its 30th Anniversary Dinner on Friday evening
Qatar Natural History Group (QNHG) celebrated its Pearl Anniversary in style on Friday evening, with a grand celebratory dinner at Al Sharq Village and Spa.
Founded in November 1978, the QNHG holds monthly meetings where speakers give illustrated presentations on a range of topics, the majority of which are connected with the natural history or history of this region.
It also holds weekly Friday morning rambles in areas across the peninsula, and monthly all-day field trips to places of interest, which include archaeological sites, national parks and wildlife breeding centres. The Group organises at least four overseas trips a year, at the two Eid holidays, to places as far apart as China and Morocco.  
The dinner was attended by almost 180 members and their guests,  and the QNHG also invited a number of distinguished guests to help them mark their 30 years in Qatar. They were welcomed by the QNHG’s new chairman Michael Lesser.
These included Khalid al-Rabban, a businessman whose Rabban Group of companies includes Ready Mix and Rayyan Mineral Water. For many years Al Rabban has sponsored the visits of the QNHG’s speakers from overseas.
Also attending was Dr Darwish al-Farh, the first director of the National Museum. Now in his 80s, al-Farh was present at the inauguration of the QNHG in the museum gardens, as were his colleagues Jassim Zaini, now a well-known artist and businessman, and marine biologist Ibrahim Fouad Ahmed.  All three were present not only on Friday but also at the QNHG’s 20th and 25th anniversary celebrations.
Also present were former members Stephen Day, a frequent visitor to Qatar, who served as British ambassador from 1981 to 1984, and Edward Lewis who served as Chairman of the QNHG from 1990 to 1996. Lewis had flown out from the UK specially to attend the Anniversary Dinner.
Before the meal, current QNHG member Ellie Lebaron, who had previously been a member from 1980 to 1982, shared her memories of expeditions with the Group in those days. She was followed by Stephen Day, and finally by Fran Gillespie, a member from 1985 to date. Between them the three speakers covered the three decades of the QNHG’s existence.
Guests were entertained with impressive sword dancing by the Aggie Traditional Club of Texas A & M University: a group of young men who aim to keep alive the traditional songs and dances of Qatar.
After dinner coupons were distributed for a draw for special prizes. Star prizes were two return tickets to Europe donated by KLM, which were won by Dr Nobuyuki Yamaguchi, a lecturer at the University of Qatar, and by  Viviane Sarkis.