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Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 212527924

On the brink of extinction: Conservation of the Critically Endangered Emirati Leaf-toed Gecko, the only endemic vertebrate of the UAE

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 212527924) - Emirati Leaf-toed Gecko - Awarded $9,000 on March 14, 2022

The Emirati leaf-toed gecko (Asaccus caudivolvulus) was thought to be on the brink of extinction but a 2022 expedition found the geckos in five locations despite heavy development in the area.

Geckos play a crucial role in ecosystems because they feed on insects and help to balance the number of species.  But due to habitat loss caused by development, the gecko population has dwindled.  The species is now classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

 

The gecko is native to a small part of the Hajar Mountains on the north-east of the UAE and is the only known vertebrate species endemic to the UAE.  Our six-strong research team travelled as much as 15 kilometres a night and used only flashlights to chart a path through mountains, down craggy slopes and across rock faces searching for the elusive and shy creature.  The gecko is about 11 centimetres long, slightly transparent, has long and thin legs for climbing and can lay only one egg at a time.

 

The primary objective of this project is to gather essential distribution, ecological, and molecular data to facilitate the conservation and management of Asaccus caudivolvulus populations. Specific goals include conducting comprehensive surveys of its distribution range in the UAE, developing a detailed species distribution model, sequencing and assembling the genome of A. caudivolvulus, analyzing genomic variability, and drafting conservation strategies. By achieving these objectives, this project aims to become a global reference and a unique model for conserving the UAE's only endemic vertebrate and one of Arabia's most threatened vertebrates.



Project 212527924 location - United Arab Emirates, Asia