Led by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London, researchers found that half of the 14 desert species studied were regionally extinct or confined to 1 percent or less of their historic ranges.
Writing in the journal Diversity and Distributions, the team found that the bubal hartebeest is extinct, the scimitar-horned oryx is extinct in the wild and the African wild dog and African lion no longer live anywhere in the Sahara.
Cycles of political instability and long-term regional conflicts have for decades prevented researchers from determining exactly what has decimated the wildlife populations.
“The Sahara serves as an example of a wider historical neglect of deserts and the human communities who depend on them,” said the study's lead author Sarah Durant.
But some countries have recently begun to protected what species remain.
Niger just established the nearly 40,000-square-mile Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve, which is home to most of the world's approximately 200 remaining wild addax — a type of antelope.
Photo: Thomas Rabeil and Sahara Conservation Fund - WCS