Study documents catastrophic collapse of Sahara's wildlife

Dec 03, 2013
This shows some of the world's 200 remaining wild addax in Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve in Niger. Credit: Copyright Thomas Rabeil and Sahara Conservation Fund

A new study led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and Zoological Society or London warns that the world's largest tropical desert, the Sahara, has suffered a catastrophic collapse of its wildlife populations.

The study by more than 40 authors representing 28 scientific organizations assessed 14 desert species and found that a shocking half of those are regionally extinct or confined to one percent or less of their historical range. A chronic lack of studies across the region due to past and ongoing insecurity makes it difficult to be certain of the causes of these declines, although overhunting is likely to have played a role. The study was published in the early online version of the journal Diversity and Distributions.

The Bubal hartebeest is extinct; the scimitar horned oryx is extinct in the wild; and the African wild dog and African lion have vanished from the Sahara. Other species have only fared slightly better: the dama gazelle and addax are gone from 99 percent of their range; the leopard from 97 percent, and the Saharan cheetah from 90. Only the Nubian ibex still inhabits most of its historical range, but even this species is classified as vulnerable due to numerous threats including widespread hunting.

The authors say that more conservation support and scientific attention needs to be paid to deserts noting that 2014 is the halfway point in the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification and the fourth year of the United Nations Decade for Biodiversity.

"The Sahara serves as an example of a wider historical neglect of deserts and the human communities who depend on them," said the study's lead author Sarah Durant of WCS and ZSL. "The scientific community can make an important contribution to conservation in deserts by establishing baseline information on biodiversity and developing new approaches to sustainable management of desert species and ecosystems."

The authors note that some governments have recently made large commitments to protecting the Sahara: Niger has just established the massive 97,000 square kilometer (37,451 square miles) Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve, which harbors most of the world's 200 or so remaining wild addax and one of a handful of surviving populations of dama gazelle and Saharan cheetah. There is also hope that the scimitar horned oryx may be reintroduced in the wild in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, with the support of the Chadian government.

Explore further: Europe's bison, beavers and bears bounce back

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Conservationists to CITES: Stop trade in wild cheetahs

Mar 08, 2013

The Wildlife Conservation Society, Zoological Society of London, and Endangered Wildlife Trust have joined representatives from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered ...

Camera trap survey snaps cheetahs in Algeria

Feb 24, 2009

A Wildlife Conservation Society-supported survey of the Sahara has captured the first camera-trap photographs of the critically endangered Saharan cheetah in Algeria. The survey was conducted by researchers ...

National Zoo scimitar-horned oryx going into the wild

Mar 04, 2008

A male scimitar-horned oryx from the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s Conservation and Research Center in Front Royal, Va., is playing an important role in ensuring the species does not vanish from the planet.

Study confirms wealth of primates in Tanzania

Jul 17, 2013

A five-year study by the Wildlife Conservation Society gives new hope to some of the world's most endangered primates by establishing a roadmap to protect all 27 species in Tanzania – the most primate-diverse ...

Europe's bison, beavers and bears bounce back

Sep 26, 2013

Several European animal and bird species driven to near extinction by humans have made a dramatic comeback in the past 50 years thanks to conservation efforts, a report said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Giant anteaters kill two hunters in Brazil

Jul 26, 2014

Giant anteaters in Brazil have killed two hunters in separate incidents, raising concerns about the animals' loss of habitat and the growing risk of dangerous encounters with people, researchers said.

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

Jul 24, 2014

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

Noise pollution impacts fish species differently

Jul 24, 2014

Acoustic disturbance has different effects on different species of fish, according to a new study from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter which tested fish anti-predator behaviour.

User comments : 4

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Maggnus
4 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2013
All the scientific attention in the world will make little difference in places like the Sudan, Libya Niger or even Morocco when people are more concerned with the survival of their children then the survival of wildlife.

Sinister1811
5 / 5 (2) Dec 03, 2013
The wildlife in the Sahara is either extinct, or threatened with extinction, this happens right across that range, into the Middle East and right across Asia as well. As well as many other parts of Africa. And it's only getting worse.
VendicarE
3.5 / 5 (6) Dec 04, 2013
Who cares. Let them die. Kill them all. I don't care.

As long as it lowers my taxes.

The Conservative approach to the issue.
semmsterr
5 / 5 (3) Dec 04, 2013
The scientific cause of their decline is: man.