Conservation status of amphibians in Tunisia
The North African amphibian fauna was once regarded as limited in diversity, but increased field and laboratory research in the region has subsequently revealed considerable endemism and data such as these are necessary for making objective and justifiable recommendations for conservation. Our research, coupled with findings from the literature, allow an up-to-date analysis of distribution, status of populations, and actual and potential threats to the continued survival of all species within Tunisia. The Tunisian batrachofauna currently consists of seven species grouped in seven genera: Pleurodeles, Bufotes, Discoglossus, Bufo, Amietophrynus, Pelophylax, and Hyla. Whereas other species are characterized by wider distributions from north to south, Bufo spinosus appears restricted to the mountainous northwestern corner where major protected areas occur. Pleurodeles nebulosus and Hyla meridionalis appear restricted to humid, subhumid, and semi-arid localities in northern Tunisia, in the Khroumirie region, but also within the Mogod region, around Tunis and the Cap Bon Peninsula. Northern localities represent the most humid and temperate portion of the country and support the highest habitat and species diversity. Despite an increasing number of man-made habitats (irrigation canals), southern localities continue to suffer from lack of suitable habitat due to natural and human causes. There are no manmade ponds dedicated to protect amphibian species in Tunisia. Our observations confirmed that Tunisia is affected by amphibian population decline, due especially to loss and fragmentation of habitat. Principal threats to amphibian survival (uncontrolled urban extension, alteration and destruction of habitat, pollution, road kills, and introduction of several predator species) vary slightly from north to south. Implementation of stricter policies coupled with increased public education and awareness is recommended in order to preserve Tunisia’s amphibian fauna.