a1 Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Jordan, Amman, Jordan.
Jordan lies at a meeting-point of three zoogeographical areas: the Palaearctic, the Afrotropical, and the Oriental—circumstances which were conducive to habitat diversity in Jordan and hence the diversity and often abundant occurrence of different floral and faunal elements.
The present paper gives information about the history and past occurrence of large mammalian species and their populations in Jordan, while also focusing on the present status of the large mammalian species, and gives the reasons for extinctions and the preventive measures that are being taken to conserve the populations remaining. In addition, this study gives a future prospective outlook for habitat and mammalian conservation, and the reintroduction programme that is being implemented in Jordan.
The first part of the paper sheds light on the past existence of large mammals in Jordan. The historical sequence of events starting from the Upper Palaeolithic and continuing right up to the present, and the succession of civilizations, had a negative impact on the large mammalian populations. This section gives tabulated data on the past occurrence of 26 species, supported by evidence of their past existence such as bone remains, rock drawings, engravings, mosaics, and frescos, found in various archaeological sites in Jordan.
The second part of the paper deals with the present status of large mammalian populations, their distribution being reflected through maps indicating recent sightings in some outstanding cases. Among those are reintroduced species such as the Arabian Oryx and the Syrian Wild Ass, and highly threatened species such as the Nubian Ibex. This part also investigates the reasons for extinction, which mainly link the destruction of habitats with the direct deterioration of mammalian populations. Habitat destruction was chiefly due to the rapid decline of the natural pasture areas, overgrazing, urban expansions, unorganized construction plans, human impact, mismanagement of the highlands, fire, and hunting. All of these factors led to deforestation and soil erosion, resulting in a patchy, fragile ecocomplex. The decrease of rainfall assisted the severe deterioration of natural forests.
The future outlook of this study includes plans to restore ecosystems and, with them, much of the overall ecocomplex. For this and other reasons it also stresses the urgent need to establish more reserves, both grazing and natural. This concluding part of the paper encourages the improvement of national parks, and urges the authorities to look seriously at the often disastrous effects of mismanagement. The importance of collaboration between Jordan and the various international agencies is emphasized, as well as the need to speed up work on the National Conservation Strategy of Jordan.