Assessor: Ian Engelbrecht
The burrowing scorpions of the genus Opistophthalmus are known to be harvested from the wild for trade and appear in the international and local exotic pet trade with some regularity (see websites listed below for examples) (Prendini, 2003). The primary species traded are O. glabrifrons and O. wahlbergii, which are desired for their large size, impressive appearance, relatively placid demeanor, and ease of care. These scorpions are easily bred in captivity and animals sold in the trade are almost always of wild origin. While the species discussed here is not reported from the pet trade, it may be targeted by hobbyist collectors with a special interest in the genus. However, it would appear that interest in the 'thin-tailed' scorpions (scorpionids and hormurids) has decreased since around a decade ago in favor of keeping thick-tailed scorpions of the family Buthidae (pers. obs.) as they are easier to care for and breed in general.
Prendini, L., Crowe, T.M. and Wheeler, W.C., 2003. Systematics and biogeography of the family Scorpionidae (Chelicerata: Scorpiones), with a discussion on phylogenetic methods. Invertebrate Systematics, 17(2), pp.185-259.
This species is known to occur only on a specific geology with a small aerial extent in the Northern Cape. The number of known localities is very small and limited to the outskirts of a nearby settlement, but recent sampling I undertook located the species further away on the same geology, suggesting it occupies the entire extent of the geological outcrop. Based on this the estimated Extent of Occurrence of approximately 100km2.
The known distributions of scorpions are based on records published in Lamoral and Reynders (1975) and Prendini (1995), on ScorpionMap project on the ADU Virtual Museum, and on my own experience sampling scorpions across southern Africa for atlasing and taxonomic purposes. The estimate of the extent of occurrence for this species was prepared using Google Maps satellite imagery for identifying the extent of the geological formation it occupies, using an online area calculation tool available at https://www.daftlogic.com/projects-google-maps-area-calculator-tool.htm.
Lamoral, B.H. and Reynders S.C. 1975. A catalogue of the scorpions described from the Ethiopian faunal region up to December 1973. Annals of the Natal Museum 33: 489-576.
Prendini, L. 1995. Patterns of scorpion distribution in southern Africa: a GIS approach. Unpublished BSc (Hons.) Thesis. University of Cape Town, South Africa.
This species is not specifically targeted for the pet trade and there is limited demand for specialized species like this. However, given the small geographic range, targeted sampling under the right conditions could impact individual subpopulations severely. While the population growth rate is unknown, there is evidence that small Opistophthalmus species such as this only produce small numbers of offspring (pers. obs.), which would mean population recovery rates would be low following extensive harvesting events.