Not a drop to drink

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 May, 2009, 12:00am

Living rough

Deserts are places where there is very little rain. These areas cover about 20 per cent of the Earth. Deserts can be hot or cold, sandy or rocky.

The Sahara in north Africa is the world's biggest hot desert. On a hot day, it can be 77 degrees Celsius.

The Sahara is a sandy desert. When it's windy, sand flies everywhere. There are little whirlwinds called waltzing jinns. Big sandstorms can cover a truck in just a few seconds.

The Antarctic is the world's largest and coldest desert. The temperature can fall to minus 89.2 degrees Celsius. Mountains and the freezing cold make this desert very dangerous.

The Gobi desert in Central Asia is very cold in winter, and very hot in summer. This desert has lots of mountains as well as rocky plains. As it's famous for its dinosaur fossils, many scientists now visit this barren place.

Although deserts are tough places to live, animals and plants do grow there. Some can live without water for a long time. Others are very good at finding underwater rivers deep under the surface.

True or false?

1 The Sahara is in Central Asia.

2 The biggest desert in the world is Antarctica.

3 The Gobi is a hot sandy desert.

Ships of the desert

Find words that mean:

a lot, supplies, animals that eat only plants, prickly

Camels can travel for a week or more without drinking any water. They don't need a lot of water, because they don't sweat much. But when they do drink, they drink a lot! Camels can drink 100 litres of water in one go.

Camels are herbivores. They like to eat grass but they can also eat thorny desert plants. When there is a lot of food, the camel stores the extra fat in the hump on its back. When there are no plants for the camel to eat, it can live off this fat.

There are two species of camel. Dromedary camels have one hump. They live mostly in North Africa and the Middle East. Bactrian camels have two humps. They live mostly in Mongolia and China.

Because camels carry goods and people, they are called 'ships of the desert'.

The amazing roadrunner

Choose the correct words to complete the paragraph:

Roadrunners live in the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico.

These birds are omnivores - a word that means they eat anything/nothing. Roadrunners will eat lizards, insects, snakes, eggs, fruit, vegetables and seeds. They will also eat soft/tough, prickly cacti.

Roadrunners can fly/swim but they prefer to run. And roadrunners are fast! They can run at 24 km/h.

Just like in the cartoon, coyotes also live in these deserts. The wild dogs can run at 64 km/h. But although the coyote is slower/faster than the roadrunner, the bird still gets away. When the coyote appears, the roadrunner spreads its wings and flies.

Desert animals in Hong Kong

As we don't have desert conditions in Hong Kong, you have to visit speciality parks and speciality pet shops to see desert animals.

At the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, you can see spurred tortoises. They live along the southern edge of the Sahara desert. When they're at home, they hide under the sand during the day, but here you can see them taking their morning walks in the sun.

For penguins, cod fish and octopuses that live in cold Antarctic waters, visit Ocean Park.

Pets shops also stock many desert creatures. Check out tarantulas, gerbils and iguanas. Remember though: never buy animals that have been captured in the wild or that are endangered. And never buy a pet you don't know how to care for properly.

Kings of the ice

Find the correct antonyms, words that mean the opposite, of:

dull, smallest, badly, hinder, diffuse

Emperor Penguins are the largest penguins in the world. They are perfectly adapted for the icy dry conditions of the Antarctic. They spend most of their time in the sea. Their shiny feathers are waterproof. They cannot fly but their wings have developed into flippers to help them swim. Their feet are webbed. They eat fish and can stay under water for 22 minutes, reaching a depth of 550 metres.

These birds can tolerate much lower levels of oxygen in their bodies than humans can. This means they can reach food other birds cannot. Like many sea birds, penguins can drink sea water. They have special salt glands in their kidneys to concentrate their urine.

Male emperor penguins look after the babies and feed them 'milk' produced in a gland in their throat.

fab fact!

The Atacama desert in South America is the driest place on Earth. It hardly ever rains. Between 1570 and 1971, there was no rain at all!

fab fact!

The Namib in Africa is 55 million years old. It is one of the world's oldest deserts. Although it's very dry, elephants, giraffes, ostriches, lions and other animals live there


The frosty deserts in the Arctic and Antarctic both cover 13 million sq km. They are the biggest deserts in the world. The Sahara is the third biggest desert. It covers 9.1 million sq km

now do this

Try to answer the following questions without referring to the text

1 Deserts are places where there is ...

a. a lot of hot sun

b. not much life

c. very little rain

2 What do camels store in their humps?

a. luggage

b. water

c. fat

3 Male penguins can produce ...

a. salt

b. low levels of oxygen

c. a sort of milk to feed their young

4 Omnivores are animals that eat ...

a. plants

b. fruit

c. everything

5 Roadrunners live in ...

a. North American deserts

b. South American deserts

c. African deserts

6 The world's biggest desert is ...

a. the Sahara

b. the Antarctic

c. the Gobi

Answer on page 11 next Wednesday

April 29

Page 7:

True or false: F, T, T

Synonyms: carnivore, baby-sit, common

Correct alternatives: huge, hard, allow

Antonyms: largest, young, excellent

Quiz: 1. b, 2. a, 3. c, 4. b, 5. a, 6. b

Look online for more about desert animals

Desert Animals

Desert toads, black widows, scorpions, roadrunners and dozens of other animals that live in deserts.

Enchanted Learning Deserts

See deserts around the world, and find out what animals live where. Includes colour printouts and fact sheets.

Animals of Antarctica

Check out fish, whales, sharks, seals, arctic terns, and penguins that love the cold.