By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) on Sunday said the “strange animal” caught by authorities in Mafraq on Saturday is the Eurasian badger, an animal indigenous to Jordan.

The Civil Defence Department handed over the animal to the RSCN, which will release it into the wild, Ehab Eid, head of RSCN’s field research section, told reporters yesterday.

Called Ghreiri in Arabic and locally referred to as Okseh, badgers are short-legged omnivores from the weasel family. They are grey in colour, while their face and neck is white with a black stripe on each side, according to RSCN researchers.

“Badgers mainly feed on rodents, reptiles, arthropods, small birds, roots and fruits. They live within groups of four to six members and are considered social animals,” Eid said yesterday at a press conference to familiarise the public with the animal and its behaviour, following news reports describing badgers as a new species in Jordan and claiming that they endanger people’s lives.

“Badgers are not considered dangerous animals and do not pose a threat to humans. If you encounter one, let it be. The animal is scared of people and will run away,” he told The Jordan Times yesterday.

The nocturnal animal has been sighted in different areas in Jordan, such as Yarmouk in the north, Amman in the centre, and Maan, Mujib and Dana in the south, Eid noted.

The animal has a body length between 55-85 centimetres (cms), a tail length between 10-20cms and weighs between seven and 13 kilogrammes.

“Badgers shelter underground and live in extensive burrows, which could reach up to one metre in depth. The animal has strong claws which it uses for digging tunnels. It prefers living near agricultural areas where the soil is soft and rich with plants, rodents and insects,” Mohammad Yousef, head of RSCN’s nature protection department, told reporters.

The badger population has been dwindling over the past few years, Eid said, noting that large numbers of badgers are poisoned or hunted down for their meat.