Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Ammotragus lervia
(aoudad)

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Datasheet

Ammotragus lervia (aoudad)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Animal
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Ammotragus lervia
  • Preferred Common Name
  • aoudad
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Chordata
  •       Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •         Class: Mammalia
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • A. lervia is a species of caprid (goat-antelope) native to North Africa. It was intentionally introduced into California, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, USA, the north of Mexico, the Canary Island of...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
TitleAdult male
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
Adult maleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd, with an alert mature female. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.
TitleMature female
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd, with an alert mature female. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd, with an alert mature female. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.
Mature femaleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd, with an alert mature female. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd in the shade of a holm oak (Quercus ilex). Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.
TitleHerd
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd in the shade of a holm oak (Quercus ilex). Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd in the shade of a holm oak (Quercus ilex). Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.
HerdAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd in the shade of a holm oak (Quercus ilex). Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2010.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd seen near a forest house. Sierra Espuña, Murcia, Spain. May, 2009.
TitleHerd
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd seen near a forest house. Sierra Espuña, Murcia, Spain. May, 2009.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd seen near a forest house. Sierra Espuña, Murcia, Spain. May, 2009.
HerdAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); herd seen near a forest house. Sierra Espuña, Murcia, Spain. May, 2009.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
TitleAdult female
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Adult femaleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); young male. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
TitleYoung male
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); young male. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); young male. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Young maleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); young male. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, with calf. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
TitleFemale, with calf
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, with calf. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, with calf. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Female, with calfAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, with calf. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male, grazing. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
TitleAdult male
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male, grazing. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male, grazing. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Adult maleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male, grazing. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); juvenile males. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
TitleJuvenile males
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); juvenile males. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); juvenile males. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.
Juvenile malesAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); juvenile males. Private game reserve, Spain. January, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, pregnant  probably with twins. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2006.
TitleFemale
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, pregnant probably with twins. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, pregnant  probably with twins. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2006.
FemaleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult female, pregnant probably with twins. Private game reserve, Spain. June, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006..
TitleAdult male
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006..
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006..
Adult maleAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); adult male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006..©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
TitleMale with European mouflon
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
Male with European mouflonAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon male. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon female. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
TitleMale with European mouflon
CaptionAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon female. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
Copyright©Ungulata Research Team
Ammotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon female. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.
Male with European mouflonAmmotragus lervia (aoudad or Barbary sheep); male and European mouflon female. Private game reserve, Spain. October, 2006.©Ungulata Research Team

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Ammotragus lervia Pallas

Preferred Common Name

  • aoudad

Other Scientific Names

  • Ammotragus tragelaphus Gray
  • Antilope lervia Pallas
  • Aries tragelaphus Lataste
  • Ovis lervia Anderson and de Winton
  • Ovis ornata Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
  • Ovis tragelaphus Afzelius

International Common Names

  • English: Barbary sheep
  • Spanish: arrui; borrego berberisco; muflón del atlas
  • French: mouflon à manchettes; mouflon africain; mouflon de barbarie
  • Arabic: arawy; arwou; kabsh; larwou; orwiyya

Local Common Names

  • Germany: mähnenschaf; mähnenspringer

Summary of Invasiveness

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A. lervia is a species of caprid (goat-antelope) native to North Africa. It was intentionally introduced into California, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado, USA, the north of Mexico, the Canary Island of La Palma and the southeast of Spain. A. lervia can successfully reproduce in these areas and as a result its distribution is expanding rapidly. There is little information available on the impact of A. lervia in many of these countries however it is believed to have a similar diet to that of many native herbivores. In the Canary Islands however, A. lervia is reported to have a negative economic impact on agricultural lands. This species feeds on the native Macaronesian flora which includes a number of threatened and vulnerable species. Nevertheless despite being invasive in its introduced range, A. lervia is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List in its native range (IUCN, 2015). This decline is believed to be a result of poaching and reintroduction programmes are in place in Tunisia.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Chordata
  •             Subphylum: Vertebrata
  •                 Class: Mammalia
  •                     Order: Artiodactyla
  •                         Suborder: Ruminantia
  •                             Family: Bovidae
  •                                 Genus: Ammotragus
  •                                     Species: Ammotragus lervia

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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A total of six subspecies of A. lervia are currently recognized; A. lervia lervia, A. lervia ornata,A. lervia sahariensis,A. lervia blainei, A. lervia angusi and A. lervia fassini. These are distinguished from each other according to their distribution and subtle differences in coat and horn shape.

The name "Ammotragus" means "sand goat", probably in reference to its colour.

Description

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A. lervia is tawny brown in colour grading to a whitish underside with dark brown areas about the head and forequarters. Variability in colour tones is notable among populations, giving rise to the definitions of the currently recognized subspecies. The general aspect resembles a robust goat, with a relatively long head, short and stocky legs and a long, naked underneath tail. As a unique feature, a mane extends from under the throat down the front of the neck to the brisket, bifurcating then and continuing down the forelegs in mature animals, where it is named chaps. A. lervia does not have a goatee and like some sheep species they have a haired chin and a short erect fringe on the back. True horns are elliptical and similar to those of the European mouflon (Ovis aries musimon). Unlike sheep, they lack preorbital, interdigital and flank glands, but have subcaudal glands. Their behaviour resembles that of sheep (Geist, 1971), although an ancestral pattern predominates (Katz, 1949; Haas, 1959). Therefore, morphologically A. lervia shows intermediate characteristics of both sheep and goats (Geist, 1971; Schaffer and Reed, 1972).

There is a strong sexual dimorphism in sexually mature individuals. Mean body weight for males is, 82.07±6.29 kg and 41.34±1.92 kg for females. In addition to this, mean body lengths of 146.76±4.66 cm and 128.14±1.82 cm for males and females respectively have been recorded (Cassinello, 1997a). Sex and age classes can be identified by face and horn morphology, full details can be found in Cassinello (1997b).

Distribution

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Following current subspecies definition, based on morphological characters, there is some disagreement with regards to the distribution of A. lervia (see Cassinello, 2013).

Population numbers of A. lervia in its native range, North Africa, are declining. As a result this species is considered as Vulnerable C1 by the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2015) and its precise presence and population numbers are mostly unknown (Cassinello, 2013). A pioneer project on the protection and reintroduction of A. lervia is in place in Tunisia (Ben Mimoun and Jebali, 2015). More stable numbers of A. lervia have been recorded in southern Algeria.

A. lervia has been introduced into parts of the USA, Mexico and Spain, basically distinguished by a Mediterranean climate. The presence of this species in the USA is well known and widely acknowledged since the celebration of the “Symposium on ecology and management of Barbary sheep” which took place in Texas (Simpson, 1980) and subsequent works (Simpson and Krysl, 1981). This species is more abundant in the states of New Mexico and Texas.

Free-ranging populations are currently present in the provinces of Murcia, Almería, Granada, Jaén and Alicante, Spain, the latter originated from escapes from two hunting reserves. Recent regional policies plead for a strict control of the populations if not their total eradication.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Africa

AlgeriaLocalisedNative Not invasive Smet, 1997Saharan Atlas Mountains (northern Algeria), Central Saharan Mountains of Tassili n’Ajjer and Ahaggar (southern Algeria)
ChadPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Mekonlaou and Daboulaye, 1997The Tibesti and Ennedi mountains
EgyptPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Manlius et al., 2003Gebel Elba, Gebel Uweinat / Gilf El Kebir
LibyaPresentNative Not invasive Shackleton and Smet, 1997West-central Libya and Tibesti
MaliPresentNative Not invasive Lamarche, 1997Adrar de Iforas
MauritaniaPresentNative Not invasive Lamarche, 1997Dhar Adrar
MoroccoPresent, few occurrencesNative Not invasive Aulagnier and Thévenot, 1997High and Middle Atlas
NigerLocalisedNative Not invasive Cassinello, 2013Termit Massif
Spain
-Canary IslandsLocalisedIntroduced1972 Invasive Rodríguez-Luengo and Cassinello, 2008Caldera de Taburiente National Park
SudanPresentNative Not invasive Nimir, 1997Red Sea hills
TunisiaLocalisedNative Not invasive Ben and Jebali, 2015In several protected areas/parks
Western SaharaPresentNative Not invasive Aulagnier and Thévenot, 1997

North America

MexicoPresentIntroducedÁlvarez-Romero and Medellín, 2005Present free-ranging in the northern states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila y Nuevo León
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedGray, 1985Sporadic records in local newspapers and by local hunters since 1960 to present
-CaliforniaLocalisedIntroduced1953Barrett, 1980
-ColoradoPresentIntroducedGray, 1985
-New MexicoWidespreadIntroduced1950Ogren, 1965
-OklahomaPresent, few occurrencesIntroducedGray, 1985
-TexasWidespreadIntroduced1957Gray, 1985

Europe

SpainLocalisedIntroduced1970Cassinello et al., 2004Southeastern mountain ranges

History of Introduction and Spread

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The introduced populations in the USA mainly result from A. lervia escaping from poorly fenced or abandoned estates. There have also been reports of it being intentionally released into the wild. Releases of A. lervia have been well documented.

In California A. lervia was acquired by a private zoo on the Hearst’s Ranch in 1924; since then the population grew and they were the basis of further introductions in New Mexico and Texas (Barrett, 1980). In 1953 the zoo was disbanded and apparently more than 80 animals escaped from the deteriorating enclosures. A few years later several populations of A. lervia were observed in several mountainous locations, up to 65 km from the zoo.

In New Mexico 12 individuals, provided by the McKnight’s Ranch, were released at Old Mills Canyon of the Canadian River gorge by the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game in 1950 (Ogren, 1965; Gray, 1985). The origin of these animals came from a number of sources including the Hearst’s Ranch in California. Another stock of animals was later released in a state game refuge near the north end of the Canadian River gorge. In 1956 another group of 21 animals was released in Largo Canyon by the San Juan County Wildlife Federation. Twenty years after their release they have been observed in locations which have exceeded 100 km.

In Texas (DeArment, 1971), 31 A. lervia were released in Christian and Harrell ranches, in Palo Duro Canyon, in 1957 and a year later 13 animals were liberated in Briscoe County. Several reports indicated that animals moved to neighbouring localities. After 20 years after their release they recorded 100 km away. Finally, three more releases of animals were carried out by private landowners in the Trans-Pecos region during the 1960s (Gray, 1985).

The free-ranging populations found in Oklahoma and Colorado are probably the result of dispersal from release areas previously mentioned, or due to escapes or releases not documented (Gray, 1985). Since the early days, unconfirmed and probably sporadic sightings of A. lervia in Arizona have been claimed by locals and hunters, even as recently as 2014 (Gray, 1985).

There is no information on the origin and evolution of A. lervia populations in Mexico; however it is relatively abundant in northern states (Álvarez-Romero and Medellín, 2005).

In Spain, 36 animals were released in Sierra Espuña Natural Park, Murcia province, in 1970, conforming to a regional game policy and carried out by the Spanish Institute of Conservation of Nature (ICONA). Fifteen years later, the population dispersed as far away as 80 km and a few years later started to colonize and settle in nearby mountain ranges, reaching the provinces of Jaén, Granada and Almería (Cassinello, 2000). In 1990 an indeterminate number of animals escaped from two hunting reserves in the province of Alicante (north of Murcia), originating a new wild population (Cassinello et al., 2004).

In 1972 sixteen animals from Sierra Espuña Natural Park were released into the National Park of La Caldera de Taburiente (La Palma, Canary Islands) by the Spanish ICONA in 1972. Since then the population increased to around 2,000 individuals in 20 years (Cassinello, 2000; Cassinello et al., 2004). A mange epidemic reduced the population dramatically, but it recovered rapidly, probably reaching more than one thousand individuals ten years later (Cassinello, 2002).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Canary Islands Spain 1972 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes No Álvarez-Romero and Medellín (2005) Released in a National Park, free-ranging
Mexico   Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes No Álvarez-Romero and Medellín (2005) Free-ranging due to escapes from poorly fenced game reserves
Spain Morocco 1970 Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes No Cassinello (2000) Released in a Natural Park, free-ranging
USA 1950's Hunting, angling, sport or racing (pathway cause) Yes No Cassinello (2000) Free-ranging due to escapes from poorly fenced game reserves

Risk of Introduction

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A. lervia was intentionally introduced into new countries. However it has a high reproductive rate and when sufficiently high numbers are reached they tend to spread to different localities whenever conditions are appropriate.

Habitat

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A. lervia is an inhabitant of mountainous regions with steep, rocky areas, basically arid or semi-arid, with the predomination of scrubs and pastures. It does not tolerate humidity or snow and although it can be found in forests, it prefers open lands (Cassinello, 1998).

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Cultivated / agricultural land Secondary/tolerated habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Arid regions Principal habitat Natural
Deserts Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Natural
Scrub / shrublands Principal habitat Natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Chromosome number of 2n = 58 has been reported. Detailed studies on the genetics of A. lervia can be found in Cassinello (1998). There are no reports of hybridization with other ungulate species in the wild, although in captivity it can interbreed with goats and produce live offspring (see Geist, 1971).

Reproductive Biology

Data obtained from captive animals indicate that males can be regarded as sexually mature at 14 months of age and females at nine months (Cassinello 1997a). Mean gestation period is five and a half months. The peak mating season occurs from September to November, so that breeding season occurs mainly in spring. Following Brown (1988), Cassinello and Alados (1996) analysed four components of female reproductive success in a captive populations of A. lervia: longevity, fecundity, offspring one-month survival rate and the age at first birth. A detailed study of these components led to the following conclusions: (a) longevity is higher in those individuals in better physical condition; (b) fecundity is related to age and social rank; (c) heavier offspring at birth have a higher probability of surviving during their first month of life; and (d) the age at first birth is delayed by high levels of population density, inbreeding coefficients and birth weights. On the other hand, high-ranking females are characterized by shorter inter-birth intervals and give birth to a higher proportion of twins.

Activity Patterns

As many other herbivore ungulates from template areas, A. lervia are more active at dawn and sunset; they may also have nocturnal behaviour; whereas during the central hours of the day they tend to rest (Cassinello, Spain, personal observation).

Population Size and Density

Small groups scattered irregularly over large ranges are the typical pattern of the distribution of the species in the wild, so that obtaining population estimates in the field is difficult. Free-ranging populations in USA and Spain vary in group composition and density both monthly and yearly (Gray and Simpson, 1982; Cassinello, 2000).

A. lervia is vulnerable in their African native range and their populations are probably declining in most areas, but perhaps a few protected areas. Population size estimates are as follows: in its African range, numbers are probably in the order of 5,000-10,000 individuals (Cassinello, 2013). The most recent estimation for Morocco ranges 1,000-2,300 animals. In southern Algeria several thousand individuals are probably present. Low numbers occur in Chad, the Adrar des Iforas in Mali and in Mauritania. In Niger, some 3,520 individuals were estimated to be present in Aïr Ténéré National N. R. in 1989 and 670 outside the limits of the reserve (Poilecot, 1991). A. lervia seems to be locally numerous in the eastern and western deserts of Egypt, where they were thought extinct not long ago. There are no estimates for Libya or Sudan, where they are very rare and acutely declining.

Feeding

Data on feeding habits have been obtained from a study conducted in a hunting reserve of the centre of Spain (Miranda et al., 2012), so that they may not resemble the proper diet of the species in its natural distribution range. Netherless unpublished data by Jamel Ben Mimoun (see Ben Mimoun and Jebali, 2015) show similar results in Tunisia.

Natural Food Sources

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Food SourceLife StageContribution to Total Food Intake (%)Details
Forbs All Stages
Grasses All Stages
Shrubs All Stages

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
B - Dry (arid and semi-arid) Preferred < 860mm precipitation annually
BS - Steppe climate Preferred > 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation
BW - Desert climate Tolerated < 430mm annual precipitation
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Tolerated Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Tolerated Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Tolerated Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)
D - Continental/Microthermal climate Tolerated Continental/Microthermal climate (Average temp. of coldest month < 0°C, mean warmest month > 10°C)
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Tolerated Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)
Dw - Continental climate with dry winter Tolerated Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Aquila chrysaetos Predator Lamb not specific
Canis aureus Predator Lamb not specific
Canis latrans Predator not specific
Puma concolor Predator not specific
Sus scrofa Predator Lamb not specific

Notes on Natural Enemies

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No specific studies have been carried on the predation of A. lervia. Predators in its native range are likely to the golden jackal (Canis aureus), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).

In the USA predators such as the cougar (Puma concolor) and coyote (Canis latrans) feed on A. lervia. In Spain only golden eagles and wild boars predate on young.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal

A. lervia populations introduced into the USA and Spain have naturally dispersed very rapidly from their release or escape areas (Gray, 1985; Serrano et al., 2002; Cassinello et al., 2004). The spread is facilitated by a high reproductive rate (Cassinello and Alados, 1996). The colonization process of A. lervia is characterized by advanced parties made up of solitary males or bachelor male groups (Barrett, 1980; Dickinson and Simpson, 1980).

Accidental Introduction

Accidental introduction of A. lervia has occurred as a result of animals escaping captivity from game reserves as a result of deteriorated fences (Gray, 1985; Cassinello et al., 2004)

Intentional Introduction

Both in the USA and Spain animals were intentionally introduced by regional administrations (Gray, 1985; Cassinello et al., 2004).

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Animal productionIn the USA and Spain animals were transported as game to private estates Yes Cassinello et al., 2004; Gray, 1985
Escape from confinement or garden escapeThere many examples of free-ranging populations originated from escapes from game reserves, both in Yes Yes Cassinello et al., 2004; Gray, 1985
Off-site preservation There are some populations breeding in captivity that may help the survival of threatened subspecies Yes Cassinello, 1998
ResearchThe captive population at the EEZA-CSIC, in Spain, was originated in order to preserve the populatio Yes Cano and Vericad, 1983

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
LivestockOriginally introduced as an appealing exotic game species in some Western countries (USA and Spain) Yes Yes Cassinello, 1998

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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The presence of A. lervia in the southeast of Spain has caused a negative economic impact on agricultural lands. Landowners need to build expensive barriers to prevent this species from entering into their crops. Also, shepherds claim that their presence affects the availability of good pastures for their livestock.

Environmental Impact

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Impacts on Habitats

Despite its exotic origin, no evidence of negative impact on habitats have been proved neither in the USA localities where A. lervia ranges freely, nor in the southeastern Iberian Peninsula. Evidence indicates, at most, a certain degree of overlap between its diet and that of some native ungulates (Krysl et al., 1980; Miranda et al., 2012). A. lervia is basically a wild grazer that may well occupy an empty niche in some of the areas where it has been introduced, particularly in Spain, where extant wild ungulates are essentially browsers. To date, only their presence in the Canary Islands can be considered harmful for the environment (Rodríguez Luengo and Cassinello, 2008).

Impact on Biodiversity

The only evidence on impacts on biodiversity caused by the presence of A. lervia is in La Palma Island, Canary Islands. Here the species has been known to feed on the Macaronesian endemic flora, of which a number of species are threatened or vulnerable. These include Bencomia exstipulata, Cheirolophus santos-abreui and Lotus pyranthus.

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Bencomia exstipulataVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)Canary IslandsHerbivory/grazing/browsingIUCN, 2015
Cheirolophus santos-abreuiCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)Canary IslandsHerbivory/grazing/browsingIUCN, 2015
Lotus pyranthusVU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable) VU (IUCN red list: Vulnerable)Canary IslandsHerbivory/grazing/browsingIUCN, 2015
Festuca ligulata (Guadalupe fescue)USA ESA species proposed for listing USA ESA species proposed for listingTexasHerbivory/grazing/browsingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014a
Streptanthus bracteatus (bracted twistflower)USA ESA species proposed for listing USA ESA species proposed for listingTexasHerbivory/grazing/browsingUS Fish and Wildlife Service, 2014b

Social Impact

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There is an acute social impact on the areas where A. lervia has been introduced as an exotic game species. Hunters consider their presence as positive, whereas cropland owners and shepherds are against it. On the other hand, this species has attracted the interest of tourists in some of the localities, such as the Sierra Espuña Natural Park in Spain. Finally, at least in Spain, environmentalists plead for their eradication. The management of A. lervia greatly depends on regional policies and political interests.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Gregarious
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Damaged ecosystem services
  • Host damage
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
  • Interaction with other invasive species
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
  • Difficult/costly to control

Uses

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Economic Value

As an exotic game species, A. lervia is very attractive for Western hunters and large sums of money are paid for their hunting, both in the USA and Spain. Furthermore, their exotic presence may also attract tourism.

Environmental Services

As an exotic species, no environmental services are expected from A. lervia. However, if it occupies an empty niche, as a large herbivore, it might help promote vegetation layer heterogeneity and, thus, biodiversity, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions (San Miguel, 2010).

Uses List

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General

  • Botanical garden/zoo
  • Research model
  • Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)

Genetic importance

  • Gene source

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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A. lervia could be mistaken for a wild sheep or wild goat, but after carefully checking its main morphological features any doubt should be solved. One of these features that help a right identification is the mane present in both males and females, which extends from under the throat down the front of the neck to the brisket.

Prevention and Control

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Prevention and Control

Prevention

Public Awareness

Nowadays there is an increasing public awareness on the introduction of exotic species in our ecosystems and the presence of A. lervia is a worrying fact part of the population, particularly those linked to environmental movements.

Eradication

Eradication programs of the A. lervia have been attempted in some areas, particularly in islands (La Palma, Canary Islands), but also in the southeast of Spain (Andalusian populations). It is practically impossible to eradicate them from large mountain ranges, but if in valleys or open fields, they can be shot easily with the use of dog packs, as they tend to face them instead of escaping.

Control

Monitoring and Surveillance

It is possible to monitor population movements by the use of radio-tracking or similar techniques.

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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There is limited information as to whether A. lervia is actually harmful for the host ecosystem in continental regions (i.e., USA and mainland Spain). It is also necessary to resolve the genetic characteristics of the African populations, in order to redefine the taxonomy of subspecies and to prevent the loss of genetically unique subspecies in the native range. 

References

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Contributors

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20/06/15 Original text by:

Jorge Cassinello, Instituto de Investigación en Recursos Cinegéticos (IREC), CSIC-UCLM-JCCM, Spain

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