Uromastyx ornata ornata (Heyden 1827) Ornate Mastigure
Hebrew name: חרדון-צב הדור, hardon-tzav hadur
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: EN (B,C2a) – Endangered
Distribution area: Endemic to the Eilat Mountains, Sinai and the northwestern Arabian Peninsula. The northern distribution area limit of the species is in Israel. The subspecies U. o. philbyi is found in the Arabian Peninsula (Wilms & Bohme 2000).
Historic distribution: There seems to be no difference between the current status and the past distribution. In the past, the Israel Nature Reserves Authority believed the Eilat population to be depleted, and as a result in the early 1980s juveniles from southern Sinai were introduced to the Eilat Mountains. It is not clear whether this was the actual situation or whether the belief was based on incomplete information. It is also not clear how successful the procedure was, but there is a possibility that specimens of U. o. ornata seen today in the Eilat Mountains are a genetic mixture of both populations. A skin disease of unknown origin was found to have spread in the Eilat Mountains population in a survey in the 1980s (Nature Reserves Authority and Israel Herpetological Center).
Typical Habitat: Rocky habitats in warm deserts. This agama usually hides in rock crevices and burrows between rocks and under them. Can be found on igneous rock, sandstone and limestone. Feeds on plants; its distribution is limited to slopes or wadis where at least some of the plants are green in summer too (trees or shrubs). U. o. ornata lays its eggs in burrows dug in wadi terraces (Mendelssohn & Bouskila 1989; Molkho & Ben David 2000). Ridge tops do not seem to be a suitable habitat. This may lead to isolation between subpopulations (Molkho & Bouskila, pers. obs.).
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Collection potential for the pet trade.
2. Vehicle damage to shrubs in wadi beds and terraces.
3. Frequent vehicle traffic in wadis where U. o. ornata feed and disturbance by hikers could reduce the time available for feeding on trees or shrubs (Shalmon 1990).
Population Size: Unknown.
Fluctuations in Population Size: Unknown.
Isolation Between Subpopulations: Unknown. There may possibly be fragmentation between different drainage basins as a result of the lack of suitable habitats on ridge tops.
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Limiting vehicle traffic to one route in each wadi and protecting vegetation and wadi terraces.
2. Preventing high visitor loads and frequent vehicle traffic in wadis where U. o. ornata feed.
3. Basic research on the life history of U. o. ornata in nature in order to determine additional disturbance factors and necessary conservation measures.