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Conserving Priority Wildlife Species in Tunisian Protected Areas

May 25, 2023

Addax Addax Nasomaculatus Marwell Zoo 5

In 2022, Marwell’s Tunisia team continued monitoring priority wildlife species across eight protected areas in close partnership with the Direction Générale des Forêts and the Commissariats Régionaux au Développement Agricole of Medenine, Tatatouine, Tozeur, Sidi Bouzid, Kebili, Gafsa and Sfax.

The Extinct In The Wild scimitar-horned oryx Oryx dammah has been re-established in Bou Hedma, Dghoumes and Sidi Toui National Parks (NPs) and Oued Dekouk National Reserve (NR). Our team visited each several times across the seasons to survey population sizes and body condition, analyse population data collected by park staff, and manage the camera-traps that monitor wider biodiversity. The analyses revealed approximately 210 oryx, despite the severe drought in the region impacting some of the populations.

North African ostriches Struthio camelus camelus have disappeared from most of their former range, with wild populations restricted to a few fragments. This desert-adapted sub-species went extinct in Tunisia in the late nineteenth century but has been reintroduced to three protected areas with an ex situ centre established in Orbata. 2022 was a good year with the recently reintroduced birds of Bou Hedma NP producing healthy chicks for the first time. The chicks are also doing well in Sidi Toui NP and Orbata NR.

The nests in Dghoumes NP were raided by predators, partially driven by the drought and the reduction in their wider prey base. As sad as this is, it is indicative of a fully functioning ecosystem that can support a
wide range of species. Overall, Tunisia now has 80 adults plus chicks for this once nationally extinct ostrich.

Our Tunisia team also conducted surveys and provided management advice for addax Addax nasomaculatus, slender-horned gazelles Gazella leptoceros, dorcas gazelle Gazella dorcas, and Barbary sheep Ammotragus lervia, to facilitate the management of these priority species.