Stenodactylus doriae (Blanford 1874) Middle Eastern Short-Fingered Gecko
Hebrew name: ישימונית תמנע, yeshimonit timna
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: CR (B) – Critically Endangered
Distribution area: Southwestern Asia, from Iran to Sinai. In Israel it is found in sandy areas in the Arava and the Timna Valley. Israel is the western distribution limit of the species.
Historic distribution: Formerly found in all sandy areas in the Arava. Many of these areas have become agricultural and the populations that once inhabited them no longer exist.
Typical Habitat: Sands. Unlike other geckos in the Arava, that inhabit a number of habitats, this species is limited to sands. Digs shallow burrows in sand covered by soil crusts (Bouskila 1988) and is unable to dig burrows in areas completely lacking soil crusts (Zaady & Bouskila, 2002).
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Continuing conversion of sandy areas to agricultural fields.
2. Off-road all-terrain vehicle traffic destroys soil crusts and burrows and tramples geckos.
3. Over-trampling by ungulates (livestock or reintroduced wild species) and hikers, when their activity is concentrated in small areas (Zaady & Bouskila, 2002).
Population Size: There is not enough information. There was a population of circa 200 on a 0.125-km2 sand patch In the Nahal Mashaq sands, on the northern limit of the species distribution area, in the 1980s (Bouskila 1987).
Fluctuations in Population Size: The Israeli population decreases each time a sandy area becomes agricultural.
Isolation Between Subpopulations: Sand patches in the Arava are isolated from each other by large tracts of non-sandy land. The reduction in the number of preserved sand patches increases this isolation even more. Although some of the patches were connected via broader sandy areas in the eastern side of the Arava Valley, agricultural development in the eastern side is intensifying isolation from that direction as well.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Preserving remaining sand patches. It is particularly important to prevent destruction of the northernmost sand patch in the species distribution area, the Nahal Mashaq sands, which are inhabited by one of the densest population of the species in the entire Arava.
2. Limiting vehicular traffic to roads and banning all-terrain vehicle traffic on sand.
3. Supervision on livestock grazing – on the one hand, to prevent over-trampling of sandy areas, and on the other, to prevent permanent soil crusts from forming as a result of total cessation of animal activity.
4. Postponing ostrich reintroduction to sandy areas in the Arava until their future impact on soil crusts and gecko populations is studied.