Attia El Hili, R., O. Verneau, J. Jrijer, M. S. Achouri

In Issues 2020

Reassessment of distribution and conservation status of freshwater turtles (Testudines) in Tunisia. pp. 362-372.

Abstract. Assessing the extant distribution of wildlife species is a crucial step towards promoting their protection and management in the light of global biodiversity decline, and even more so when threatened, vulnerable, rare, or endemic taxa are concerned. In this context, we present an overview of the biogeography of two freshwater turtle species, namely the Mediterranean pond turtle Mauremys leprosa and the European pond turtle Emys orbicularis, as a basis for Conservation Action Plans. Mauremys leprosa is widely distributed in the north and centre of Tunisia and has viable populations in most of the study sites. Based on the evaluation of its biogeography, the size, structure and genetics of four populations, it appears that this species is currently not threatened in Tunisia. In contrast, E. orbicularis, which is represented in eastern Algeria and Tunisia by an endemic, undescribed subspecies, was absent from 11 historical sites in Tunisia, and only isolated small populations and scattered individuals were present in the extreme north of the country. Our study thus suggests that this subspecies is declining in Tunisia and its status is probably close to Endangered (EN). Therefore, it needs special attention and urgent conservation measures.

Key words. Tunisia, Mauremys leprosa, Emys orbicularis, biogeography, genetic variation, size structure.

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