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Arabitragus jayakari

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CETARTIODACTYLA BOVIDAE

Scientific Name: Arabitragus jayakari
Species Authority: (Thomas, 1894)
Common Name(s):
English Arabian Tahr
Synonym(s):
Hemitragus jayakari Thomas, 1894
Taxonomic Notes: We follow Ropiquet and Hassanin (2005) in removing this species from Hemitragus and allocating it to the monotypic genus Arabitragus.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C2a(i) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Insall, D.
Reviewer(s): Festa-Bianchet, M. & Harris, R. (Caprinae Red List Authority)
Justification:
Listed as Endangered because its population size is estimated to number fewer than 2,500 mature individuals, no subpopulation contains more than 250 mature individuals, and there is probably a continuing decline in the number of mature individuals.
History:
1996 Endangered
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Endangered (IUCN 1990)
1988 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Endangered (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The entire world population of Arabian tahr occurs in the mountains of northern Oman and the United Arab Emirates, where it prefers north facing slopes between 1,000 and 1,800 m, which are characterized by relatively high rainfall, cooler temperatures and diverse vegetation.

There are small scattered populations throughout a 600 km crescent in northern Oman, from the limestone massifs of the Musandam, through the Hajar mountains as far as Jebel Qahwan due south of Sur. Sightings in the Musandam, the United Arab Emirates and the northern Batinah Region of Oman are sporadic and rare, mainly due to depleted numbers and the inaccessibility of the tahr’s preferred habitat.

Further south the tahr is reported to be thriving in areas of preferred habitat where it has effective ranger protection and competition from domestic goats is limited. The most important populations occur near Nakhl, the Wadi As Sareen Nature Reserve and Jebel Qahwan in the Ja’alan. In addition to the well-vegetated limestone escarpments, tahrs range through the lower altitude ophiolite mountains which form nearly 60% of its former habitat. Although the vegetation here is sparser and less diverse, there are more open pools and perennial springs due the lower permeability of the rock.

Insall (1999) noted that, of the historic range of 19,413 km², recent occurrence was noted in hectads totalling 8,863 km². In a further 6,924 km² of hectads the species' occurrence was unclear, and it was reported as extinct in the remaining 3,653 km² of its historic distribution.
Countries:
Native:
Oman
Possibly extinct:
United Arab Emirates
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There is no recent estimate of total population, though there are probably fewer than 5,000 animals. Although some populations may have increased through protection, overall it is likely that the species continues to decline,

The global population was estimated to be less that 2,000 animals by Munton (1985), although the extremely rugged terrain, low densities and small group size, make accurate censuses very difficult. In a three-month follow-up survey in 1987, Munton calculated that there had been a 6% increase in tahr populations where hunting had ceased. This suggested that the population in Wadi Sarin area had doubled between 1978 and 1987 from around 360 to 700 individuals. In a three-month zoological survey in the Ru’us Al Jibal mountains of the United Arab Emirates in 1995, C. Stuart (pers. comm. to S. Lovari) made only one sighting of tahr (a female and 2-3 month-old young) in the Hajar Mountains.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Optimum tahr habitat comprises north facing slopes between 1,000 and 1,800 m, that are characterized by relatively high rainfall, cool temperatures and diverse vegetation. They have been seen at altitudes down to sea level, especially during the rut when males are known to move long distances between known populations to find females. In captivity births have occurred in all months of the year, but in the wild the season is from September to November. A second rut, known as ‘Lia’ah adh dhubab’, is reported to occur in February in years when there is good forage after early rainfall (Wood 1992; Insall 1999).

Tahrs live in small family groups of two or three animals, and are entirely herbivorous. The species is diurnal, grazing in the early morning and late afternoon. Although it can survive long periods without drinking if good vegetation is available, in summer it will come down to drink every two or three days. There is widespread anecdotal evidence of tahrs drinking at night from the sources of the ‘falaj’ channel irrigation systems.
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is hunted for food by local communities.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The greatest threat to the survival of the species is loss of habitat (Insall 1999). Although within guarded areas its status is sound, elsewhere problems include restricted available habitat, poaching, and most importantly, competition with livestock, primarily domestic goats. In some areas of prime habitat there has been a steady increase in domestic livestock numbers, where new road networks make it easy to transport animals to new pasture or to bring in supplementary food and water. These areas include the high plateaux of the Eastern Hajar Range, the Jabal Al Akhdhar and Jabal Kawr in the Western Hajar. In most other areas of the tahr’s range there is strong anecdotal evidence that domestic livestock numbers have decreased. However, active shepherding of livestock has all but ceased, increasing the occurrence of stray animals which become feral and then breed in areas of tahr habitat.

In times of severe drought tahrs have been found in poor condition in a number of areas of its range, some of which have died. There is evidence that they are susceptible to diseases that affect domestic goats. This will remain an ongoing threat until vaccination of domestic animals against clostridial diseases becomes de rigueur. Cases of warble fly strike occurred in the Tanuf area of the south-facing cliffs of the Jabal Al Akhdhar in early 2000. Illegal hunting remains a significant threat in some areas. This is exacerbated by the burgeoning network of graded secondary roads which are fragmenting the tahr’s habitat throughout its range. Further ahead, a prospective increase in mineral mining, especially in the ophiolite mountains, threatens to degrade both vegetation and groundwater supplies upon which the tahr depends.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: It has been illegal to kill or capture tahr in Oman since the Royal Decree issued in 1976 (Ministry of Diwan Affairs, Ministerial Decision No. 4), but the terrain and distribution make this difficult to enforce. Following two years of field study from 1973, a special wildlife guard force, administered by the Diwan of the Royal Court, was established in 1975 to protect Arabian tahr in a 200 km² area in the mountainous region of the Jabal Aswad escarpment 45 km south of Muscat, encompassing the watershed of the Wadi As Sareen. A number of tahr guards (“mushrafin”) were appointed from local tribes originally to patrol just the Wadi As Sareen Nature Reserve, but subsequently their jurisdiction was extended to include Jabal Sa’atari 20 km to the north. The area patrolled by the guards was further extended, and by 1992 they protected tahr and Arabian gazelle in an area of about 2,350 km², including the mountains near Nakhl 70 km south-west of Muscat and the Jabal Bani Jabir about 120 km south-east of Muscat. In addition, a number of villagers are retained to report any poaching attempts. All the patrolled areas contain good quality habitat, but tahr populations are small and isolated, and thus vulnerable to diseases introduced by domestic stock, and other stochastic events.

In 1979 an agreement was made with three local families to keep their domestic livestock out of a 16 sq km area of the Jabal Aswad cliff overlooking Wadi Qiyd, an area of particular importance for the tahr.

In 1993 the Ministry of Regional Municipalities and Environment (now Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs) established a small wildlife ranger unit in the Ja’alan to guard a population of Arabian gazelle at As Saleel, near Al Kamil. The following year this was expanded to look after a substantial tahr population in Jabal Qahwan. Further units were established elsewhere in Oman, those in the north specifically tasked with identifying and monitoring further tahr populations. They now operate in all areas of the tahr’s range.

Tahr is one of the species kept in the Omani Captive Breeding Centre for Mammals at Bait al Barakah in northern Oman, where it has reproduced in captivity. The species has proved difficult to rear in captivity when compared with other native ruminants, so none have yet been released into the wild.

In the future it is intended that surplus animals will be used for re-introductions and for supplementing existing populations. Conservation measures proposed: 1) Establish a network of reserves already identified, which, where possible, encompass core zones free of domestic livestock. The proposed reserves are designed to protect around 1,750 animals, and would include the majority of the known populations. 2) The captive breeding program should continue to gather more information on the species and its genetics, and provide a source for re-introductions which could be especially important if disease struck wild populations. 3) Consider establishing a second captive breeding group outside the region. 4) Maintain and extend the present enforcement of conservation measures. Along with censuses and gathering further data on distributions, more ecological research on the species is required, including studies on competition with livestock. Active habitat management will be required to ensure the continued survival and conservation of Arabian tahr (Munton, 1985). 5) The seed bank being established under the Oman Botanic Garden will include those of the tahr’s major forage species so that overgrazed areas can be re-vegetated. This would also be valuable for reestablishment of forage for domestic livestock, and help reduce competition for tahr. 6) Continue to enforce the traditional laws which restrict tree cutting in the Sultanate as another important component of habitat management (Munton, 1985). 7) Re-instate the traditional conservation areas such as the Hamiyat and establish new ones (Munton, 1985) 8) Co-operate with the Ministry of Agriculture in measures to give better protection and management of rangelands and forests throughout Oman.

Citation: Insall, D. 2008. Arabitragus jayakari. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 23 October 2014.
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