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Threats to Mediterranean (West Palaearctic) tortoises and their effects on wild populations: an overview

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The species and subspecies of W Palaearctic tortoises include six, which are widespread in southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, and four with restricted ranges in the Mediterranean region. The Central Asian Testudo (Agrionemys) horsfieldii GRAY overlaps with Testudo graeca zarudnyiNIKOLSKY in Iran and Afghanistan. The distributions of the remainder border the Mediterranean Sea. Their survival is threatened directly or indirectly by human activity over many years and include habitat destruction (urbanization, touristic development, road-building, scrubland fires and agriculture), bulk pet and food trade collection for export to NW Europe (Testudo graeca graeca L., Testudo graeca ibera PAL-LAS, Testudo hermanni hermanni GMELIN, T. (A.) horsfieldii and sometimes Testudo marginata SCHOEPFF), isolation of populations with restricted ranges (Testudo hermanni robertmertensiWERMUTH, Testudo (Pseudotestudo) kleinmanni LORTET, T. marginata and Testudo graeca floweri BODENHEIMER), and desertification, especially in the Saharan encroachment zone of northern Africa from wood burning, animal grazing and rainfall decrease (T. g. graeca and T. (P.) kleinmanni). A circum-Mediterranean investigation would establish the population status of all species and their habitats. Countries of the Council of Europe and European Economic Community by ratifying C.I.T.E.S. (Washington Convention 1973) have established the extent of the bulk trade. This should only be allowed in captive-bred animals which, like other domestic pets, could be commercially farmed, probably by necessity in the Mediterranean bioclimatic zone.

Affiliations: 1: c/o British Herpetological Society, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW14RY, Eng-land


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