Naia M, Sow AS, Campos J, Sidatt ZEA, Brito JC




Philochortus zolii is a globally endangered lizard known only from five localities scattered across North Africa. The population is thought to be decreasing, but there are almost no data about this Sahara-Sahel endemic lizard. Recently, a sixth population was found in Mauritania, at the coastal peripheral zone of the Diawling National Park, which constitutes a remarkable opportunity to gather ecological information for the first time and to plan conservation actions. Here we assess the P. zolii regional distribution in Mauritania, estimate population abundance, analyse the species activity patterns, characterise the occupied habitats, assess local threats, evaluate the national conservation status, and define an action plan for the local conservation of the species. P. zolii is locally rare and exhibits a much-localised distribution, but additional sampling is needed in other humid areas to fill out the knowledge gap on global distribution. The activity period is very restricted, limited to the central hours of the day, with low detectability and high specialisation in habitat use. The species is evaluated as Critically Endangered at the national level and is threatened by industrial and agriculture developments. These activities have degraded the suitable available habitats and hamper any dispersal possibility. Extreme climatic events related with sea-level rise could decimate the entire Mauritanian population. Any pet trade that may be stimulated by the current discovery should be carefully supervised and monitored. The discovery of this isolated population justifies that coastal habitats should be designated as integral protection zone and included inside the Diawling National Park.


Journal: African Journal of Herpetology

DOI: 10.1080/21564574.2021.1980121