A team of more than 40 scientists representing 28 organisations assessed 14 desert species and found that half are regionally extinct or confined to one per cent or less of their historical range. Among the species that have disappeared are the Bubal hartebeest, which is now extinct; the scimitar horned oryx, which is extinct in the wild; and the African wild dog and African lion, which are both locally extinct in the Sahara. The dama gazelle and addax are found in only one per cent of their historical range. Only the Nubian ibex still inhabits most of its historical range, but the species is classified as vulnerable.
The cause of the declines is unclear as there has been a chronic lack of studies across the region due to past and ongoing insecurity; however, the study’s authors suggest that hunting is likely to have played a role.
‘The Sahara serves as an example of a wider historical neglect of deserts and the human communities who depend on them,’ said lead author Sarah Durant. ‘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.’
This story was published in the February 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine