Pan Sahara Wildlife Survey

Dorcas gazelle

ZSL and the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) are working to improve the conservation status and ensure the survival of the highly threatened yet poorly known wildlife of the Sahara and bordering Sahel regions of Africa. Surveys have been carried out in sites of high conservation priority across the Sahara and Sahel to obtain up-to-date information on the status of wildlife, especially those of high conservation concern, and their habitats and identify the threats they face. This information has been used to identify urgent actions required to conserve these areas.

Why we are there

The large bird and mammal fauna of the Sahara is one of the most threatened yet poorly known on earth. Drought, desertification, habitat loss and over-hunting have reduced many species to the verge of extinction. Animals like the addax, dama gazelle and cheetah having disappeared from over 95% of their former ranges, while the scimitar-horned oryx is extinct in the wild. The current status of many other species is either unknown or seriously out of date. Lack of up-to-date information and data severely limits the ability of Saharan nations to conserve desert fauna, access international support for conservation, decide how to use available resources, and use wildlife sustainably.

Key achievements and goals

The long-term goal of the PSWS is to improve the conservation status of the highly threatened yet poorly known wildlife of the Sahara and bordering Sahel regions of Africa. Working at all times in close collaboration with the national conservation authorities in the countries concerned, the project has carried out surveys of 8 sites in 3 countries, Chad, Niger and Tunisia, covering over 15,000km in remote and poorly known areas obtaining new and significant information on these areas, including encouraging news on some healthy dorcas gazelle populations, important updates on the wild status of an array of Africa’s rarest and most threatened aridland animals, the continued presence of the critically endangered dama gazelle in 3 sites in Niger and Chad and the identification of a desert hunting trade.

The project has trained national counterparts in a broad range of survey and monitoring techniques, building strong relationships with national wildlife and protected area authorities and provided support to the conservation of addax in the Termit Tin Toumma system in Niger [Link to this project] and its successful gazettement as the Termit Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve. Perhaps most significantly as a result of this work a new project is being developed to reintroduce scimitar-horned oryx into the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in Chad. 

Project information

 Key species

  • Addax, Critically Endangered
  • Scimitar-horned oryx, Extinct in the wild
  • Dama gazelle, Critically Endangered
  • Nubian bustard, Near Threatened
  • Dorcas gazelle, Vulnerable
  • Slender-horned gazelle, Endangered
  • Saharan cheetah subspecies, Critically Endangered (compared to the vulnerable status of the species as a whole).

People involved

  • Tim Wacher is the lead scientist on this project

Partners and sponsors

  • This project was initiated by the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) with financial support from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.