Acanthodactylus beershebensis (Moravec et al. 1999) Be’er Sheva Fringe-Fingered Lizard
Hebrew name: שנונית באר-שבע, shnunit be’er-sheva
Global Threat: NE – Not Evaluated
Regional Threat: CR (A2ce) – Critically Endangered
Distribution area: Endemic to Israel (Moravec et al. 1999). Small fragmented populations inhabit the northern Negev loess plains. The total natural habitat area of this species is less than 200 km2. Some of the remaining natural habitat patches are very small. In some patches the lizard density is very low. Only one large patch with a dense population is known. Most of the area inhabited by this species is part of Israel Defense Forces training grounds. None of the patches with dense populations is preserved or designated for preservation (Hawlena & Bouskila, unpubl. obs.). A. beershebensis was formerly assigned to A. pardalis, and was defined as a separate species form the one found in Egypt only in 1999.
Historic distribution: A. beershebensis was once the most common reptile on the northern Negev and southern Judean Desert loess plains. Its former occupancy area is estimated at circa 2000 km2. The northern Negev loess plains are suitable for farming, settlement and roads, which have led to the destruction of over 90% of this habitat (Hawlena, pers. comm.).
Typical Habitat: Loess plains and moderate chalk slopes covered with sparse shrubbery of Irano-Turanian and Saharo-Arabian origin (Moravec et al. 1999).
Threat and Disturbance Factors:
1. Habitat destruction – most of the occupied patches are designated for development.
2. Habitat modification – addition of trees to loess plains increases predation pressure by birds - great gray shrike and kestrel (Hawlena & Bouskila, in MS.).
3. Off-road all-terrain vehicle traffic and over-trampling by livestock damages soil crusts that stabilizes lizard burrow entrances.
4. Spread of cattle egrets that feed on the species on the loess plains.
Population Size: Unknown.
Fluctuations in Population Size: The preferred habitat of this species has decreased by more than 90%.
Isolation Between Subpopulations: The patches inhabited by this species are isolated from each other. The species’ dispersal capability is very limited and the distance between populated patches is large.
There is probably no gene exchange between isolated subpopulations (Hawlena & Bouskila, unpubl. obs.).
Necessary Steps for Species Preservation:
1. Declaring areas inhabited by the major subpopulations as reserves.
2. Preventing modification of the natural habitat in patches inhabited by A. beersebensis.
3. Examining size and connectivity of subpopulations in order to rank the importance of areas.
4. Controlling grazing intensity in order to prevent over-trampling on one hand, and dense vegetation on the other.
5. Reducing cattle egret populations in the area.