Decline of the Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) in Egypt during the 20th century: literature review and recent observations




At the beginning of the 19th century, the Barbary sheep Ammotragus lervia was still present throughout the whole of Egypt except for the Sinai region. However, by the beginning of the 20th century it had disappeared from the Nile Delta region and from the Faiyum Oasis. In 1950 it was still present in the extreme south-east and in a small stretch of land in the Eastern Desert, and in half of the Western Desert. Today it is found only in the extreme south-east (Gebel Elba) and the extreme south-west (Gebel Uweinat and/or Gilf El Kebir) of the country. This sharp decrease in the distribution area of Ammotragus lervia is the result of intensive hunting by humans. The Barbary sheep of Gebel Elba now live in a region that has been designated a national park, which offers some protection. The Barbary sheep populations in the Uweinat/Gilf El Kebir area is in rapid decline, and it is now urgent that the Egyptian government enforce effective conservation measures to safeguard the last wild populations of Barbary sheep still present in its territory.