Taxonomy

Animalia Chordata Vertebrata Reptilia Squamata Sauria Agamidae Uromastyx Uromastyx ocellata

Taxonomic notes: The Uromastyx ocellata species group consists of six species, including the recent descriptions U. shobraki and U. yemenensis (Wilms and Schmitz 2007), which can be difficult to distinguisĥ. A further species, U. macfadyeni, is not closely-related (Wilms et al. 2009) but has also sometimes been treated as a synonym of U. ocellata (Wilms and Böhme 2007). The species concept presented here is that of Wilms et al. (2009).

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Geographic Range

This species ranges from southeastern Egypt (with a northernmost record of Wadi Gul'an) and the Red Sea coast of northern Sudan (Lanza 1990) inland to Dongola and Um Durman (Wilms and Böhme 2000) into Eritrea, Djibouti and the Borama District of northwestern Somalia, as well as immediately adjacent areas of Ethiopia (Wilms et al. 2009, Largen and Spawls 2006, Largen and Spawls 2010). Records of U. macfadyeni from the Guban (Somalia) are instead attributable to this species (Wilms and Böhme 2007). Within this range, the species is often found in isolated subpopulations due to the species' habitat requirements (S. Spawls pers. comm. 2011). The single record from Djibouti (originally attributed to O. macfadyeni based on comparisons with specimens from the Guban, now considered to belong to U. ocellata) is from Wadi wada Weyn, in the Ali Sabieh region (Ineich 2001).

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Habitat

This diurnal rock-dwelling species is found in wadis in mountainous rocky desert with Acacia trees. It retreats to cracks and crevices between large boulders, and sometimes burrows into the beds of wadis. It is generally not present in cultivated areas. The species mainly feeds on Acacia leaves and climbs these trees. It tends to live in colonies, often in holes.

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Population

In Egypt this species is fairly common but declining in some areas (Baha El Din 2001). Continuing declines are also suspected in other parts of its range. Assuming population densities comparable to those of other species of this genus, its population is estimated to number at minimum several hundred thousand individuals (CITES 2006). Surveys in Ethiopia in 2000 led to a national population estimate of around 10,000 individuals, a figure used as the basis for setting export quotas (CITES 2006).

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Use Trade

This species is of interest to the international pet trade and specimens have been exported primarily from Egypt and Sudan, although an export ban imposed in Egypt appears to have been successful in preventing trade from or to this country since 1998 (CITES 2006). Between 1994 and 2003, a total of 16,707 individuals were reportedly exported globally (CITES 2006). Annual exports are however reported to be "low" (CITES 2006), with fewer than 3,000 animals exported from Sudan (the main exporter) annually (CITES 2006); this is consistent with more recent reports from this country, which indicate an export level of approximately 22,250 live specimens exported from Sudan between 2000 and 2009 (UNEP-WCMC 2010). No trade has been reported from Somalia, Eritrea or Djibouti, and fewer than 500 animals were exported during this period from Ethiopia (CITES 2006). Due to taxonomic issues with this and related species, it is likely that some records of trade in O. ocellata refer to other taxa (CITES 2006), and that actual exports of this species may therefore be lower than these figures suggest; conversely, however, records of "Uromastyx ornata" exported from Sudan (where U. ornata does not occur) may be attributable to U. ocellata (CITES 2006).

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Threats

This species is of interest to the international pet trade. Most countries within its range have no monitoring in place to evaluate the effects of trade on subpopulations, however the fact that the species tends to occur in colonies in distinct pockets of suitable habitat makes collection of a large number of individuals particularly easy for collectors (S. Spawls pers. comm. 2011), and as particularly large individuals can fetch good prices (S. Spawls pers. comm. 2011) a localized threat to subpopulations from commercial collection may exist. It is not believed to be exploited for either international or domestic use in Eritrea, however its CITES trade assessment as Least Concern in this country is provisional as no surveys have been conducted to confirm this (CITES 2006). In Ethiopia, export levels roughly correspond to import levels, and the country has reportedly exported captive-bred specimens (CITES 2006); it is therefore unclear whether there is significant offtake of wild animals in Ethiopia or whether those found in trade are mostly re-exports of animals captured elsewhere. Levels of annual offtake in Sudan are considered likely to be sustainable at the national level and rates of illegal trade are low based on available records (81 in 2000 and 51 in 2001 - 2006), however no reviews of this lizard's management status have been undertaken in Sudan and no trade controls are in place in this country (CITES 2006). Loss of habitat through quarrying and cutting of Acacia for charcoal may also pose a threat to this species at a local scale, at least in Egypt.

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Specific Threats

  • 3.2 Mining & quarrying
  • 5.1.1 Intentional use (species is the target)
  • 5.3.5 Motivation Unknown/Unrecorded

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Conservation Actions

This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES. Egypt has banned the export of this species. An export quota is in place in Ethiopia, which was of 500 animals in 2005 (reduced from 3,600) (CITES 2006), although annual exports have never reached this level (UNEP-WCMC). There are protected areas within its range, including three protected areas in Egypt covering about 50% of the species' national range. Monitoring of harvest, trade and population status of this species is  needed to ensure that excessive collection for the pet trade does not cause serious population declines at local scales, and particularly in Sudan. Implementation of effective national legislation on the harvest and trade of this species is recommended.

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Specific Actions

  • 5.2 Policies and regulations
  • 3.1.2 Trade management
  • 3.1.1 Harvest management

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Red List Rationale

Uromastyx ocellata has been assessed as Least Concern, as it has a large area, is estimated to have a large population size and occurs in proteced areas throughout its raneg. However, the population may be in decline due to collection of the species for the international pet trade, coupled in some parts of its range with habitat degradation. Since its ecology makes it particularly vulnerable to over-collecting, it is vital that effective monitoring and legislation is put into place to ensure the continued well-being of this species. Particular focus should be put on monitoring harvest and population levels, since any evidence of  population declines of 25% or more will place this species in the Near Threatened or a threatened category in the future.

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Bibliography

  • Baha el Din, S.M. 2001. The herpetofauna of Egypt: species, communities and assemblages. PhD unpublished, University of Nottingham School of Biological Sciences, Nottingham, UK.
  • CITES. 2006. Review of Significant Trade in specimens of Appendix-II species. Twenty-second meeting of the Animals Committee. Lima, Peru.
  • Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). 2006. Review of Significant Trade in specimens of Appendix-II species: Uromastyx ocellata. Twenty-second meeting of the Animals Committee. Lima, Peru.
  • Flower, S. 1933. Notes on the recent reptiles and amphibians of Egypt, with a list of the species recorded from that kingdom. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1933: 735-851.
  • Ineich, I. 2001. Reptiles et amphibians de la République de Djibouti. Museum Nationale d'Histoire Naturelle.
  • Knapp, A. 2004. An assessment of the international trade in Spiny-tailed Lizards Uromastyx with a focus on the role of the European Union. TRAFFIC Europe. European Commission., Brussels.
  • Lanza, B. 1990. Amphibians and reptiles of the Somali Democratic Republic: checklist and biogeography. Biogeographica: 407-465.
  • Largen, M. and Spawls, S. 2010. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
  • Martens, H. 1997. A review of "Zoogeography of amphibians and reptiles of Syria, with additional new records" (Herpetozoa 9 (1/2), 1996). Herpetozoa 10(3/4): 99-106.
  • Saleh, M.A. 1997. Amphibians and Reptiles of Egypt. Publication of the National Biodiversity Unit, Cairo.
  • Schmidt, K.P. and Marx, H. 1956. The herpetology of Sinai. Fieldiana 39(4): 21-40.
  • UNEP-WCMC. 2010. CITES Trade Database. Available at: http://www.unep-wcmc.org/citestrade/. (Accessed: 17th September).
  • Wilms, T. 2001. Dornschwanzagamen: Lebensweise, Pflege und Zucht. Herpeton-Verlag., Offenbach, Germany.
  • Wilms, T. 2002. Habits, care and breeding of spiny-tailed agamas (the Uromastyx-ocellata complex as an example). Reptilia (GB) 21: 19-29.
  • Wilms, T. 2002. Uromastyx - spiny-tailed agamas. Reptilia (GB) 21: 12-18.
  • Wilms, T. and Böhme, W. 2000. Zur Taxonomie und Verbreitung der Arten der Uromastyx-ocellata-Gruppe (Sauria: Agamidae). Zoology in the Middle East 21: 55.
  • Wilms, T.M. and Böhme, W. 2007. Review of the taxonomy of the spiny-tailed lizards of Arabia (Reptilia: Agamidae: Liolepidinae: Uromastyx. Fauna of Arabia 23: 435-468.
  • Wilms, T.M. and Schmitz, A. 2007. A new polytypic species of the genus Uromastyx MERREM 1820 (Reptilia: Squamata: Agamidae: Leiolepidinae) from southwestern Arabia. Zootaxa 1394: 1-23.
  • Wilms, T.M., Böhme, W., Wagner, P., Lutzmann, N., Schmitz, A. 2009. On the Phylogeny and Taxonomy of the Genus Uromastyx Merrem, 1820 (Reptilia: Squamata: Agamidae: Uromastycinae) – Resurrection of the Genus Saara Gray, 1845. Bonner zoologische Beiträge 56(1/2): 55-99.

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