Thursday, July 06, 2006

A night spent hunting the Jumeirah Islands wolf

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

As the lights dim over the Meadows residential estate, a rare sight unfolds, as Bedouin desert watchmen take up positions on an intricately woven rug on the golf course green. Equipped with just the bare essentials – sedatives, a tranquiliser gun and hot tea - the three figures in crisp white cloth patiently wait for a sighting of the wolf.

Relaxed and calm, they offer me a place on the blue silk rug to join the hunting party. No urgency can be detected in their behaviour - but a hint of eeriness still looms in the air at the prospect of waiting for the wolf to show its face.

“So, why are you concerned about capturing this wolf?” I ask Mohammed. “We are desert watchmen and we were sent here to make sure this beautiful animal is caught safely,” says Mohammed.
“The desert wolf hasn’t been spotted in the UAE for at least 25 years. It is a rare and beautiful animal. If it were a man, it would surely have 100 women walking after it.”

Suddenly, our conversation is interrupted and we all jump up in the air with fright. The water sprinklers on the golf course have unexpectedly squirted into action. We have to move camp - where we bump in to Andreas Desai, a Meadows resident, who is also concerned about the fate of the wolf that has become best friends with his three-year-old dog Matt.

“People are scared of this wolf, but it is friendly and harmless,” says Desai. “He has been eating dinner with my dog nearly every evening and has shown no sign of any threatening behaviour. But the security guards here don’t know what to do and are running after him, trying to catch him with their bare hands. It’s hilarious to watch.”

“So how do you plan to catch him,” I ask Mohammed, glancing at the tranquiliser gun. “We tried to put sedatives in some food, but he can taste them and leaves the food. So now we have to try and get him with the tranquiliser gun, but to do this we need to be at least 20ft away from him,” says Mohammed.

The whole time Mohammed’s mobile is ringing and sightings of the wolf are being reported by other desert watchmen scattered throughout the area. “A lady walking her dog has just fed the wolf half a biscuit, but he ran away when my friends approached. The lady gave my friend the other half of the biscuit and told him to make sure to give it to the wolf if they catch him,” Mohammed chuckles as he hangs up the phone.

“We don’t want to hurt this poor creature, but just take it safely back to our village or place it somewhere safe. It needs looking after. It needs to be cared for, ” Mohammed explains. However, these men may need to work fast if they want to save him, because not everyone thinks he is a timid creature.

First of all, we had a lady from the Springs throwing a water bottle at him, and then a man took off his shoe and chased after him, but more concerning is that now a ‘cowboy’ was spotted on a quad bike with a rifle.

“I was very concerned last night to see a man out on a quad bike armed with a rifle obviously searching for the dog-wolf,” says Jayne Fergusson, a Jumeirah Islands resident. Fergusson has seen the wolf at least four times when out walking her Cocker Spaniels and says he is very friendly towards the dogs, although very nervous of humans. Which is not really surprising considering self-appointed armed wolf killers are patrolling the area on quad bikes.

“I have a feeling that he will be ‘disposed’ of before too long, which will be a shame as he is not doing any harm to anyone,” says Fergusson. And it would be a shame too if anything did happen to old ‘Wolfie’. Not only is he just a hungry and probably quite rare animal, unbeknown to himself he has also prompted the coming together of locals and expats.

“I really appreciate the fact that the wolf business has lead me to befriend these local Bedouin guys,” says Swedish-born Desai. “I have even been invited to their village over the weekend and am really looking forward to getting a glimpse into their culture.”

With that the sprinklers kick off again - as does the football - so Desai invites everyone to use his dry living room facing the golf course as a lookout for the wolf. Forget Angelina Jolie as a UN ambassador. I nominate ‘Wolfie’. When was the last time you had the opportunity to invite Bedouins around for football?

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