World Reptile Populations Critically Threatened Says New Report
February 15, 2013

One In Five Reptile Species Endangered Says New Study

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A new report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) warns that not only are a large number of reptile species in danger of becoming extinct, there is also a severe lack of data on the conservation status of many reptiles around the world.

According to the report, about one in five reptiles is currently endangered, and 12 percent are classified as ℠critically endangered.´ The research team, which included scientists from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (SSC), also found that 41 percent of reptile species are considered ℠endangered´ while another 47 percent are ℠vulnerable´.

The authors noted that three species considered to be critically endangered could possibly be extinct. One of these reptiles, the jungle runner lizard“¯Ameiva vittata, has only been spotted in one part of Bolivia. With logging and human activities rapidly consuming the lizard's habitat, two recent searches for the species were unsuccessful.

"Reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats and tough environmental conditions, so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world,” said report co-author Monika Böhm, a researcher at ZSL.

"However, many species are very highly specialized in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes," she continued.

The report involved over 200 world renowned experts and is the first of its kind to summarize the conservation status of reptiles on such a comprehensive level, assessing the extinction risk of 1,500 randomly selected species from across the globe.

The team found that various types reptile species face differing threat levels of extinction risk. For example, the study estimated that 30 percent of freshwater reptiles are close to extinction, but that estimate rises to 50 percent when considering freshwater turtles alone.

The report also mentions a “chronic lack of data for many species covered by the study, making their extinction risk susceptible to being underestimated.”

"Gaps in knowledge and shortcomings in effective conservation actions need to be addressed to ensure that reptiles continue to thrive around the world,” said Ben Collen, who leads the ZSL's Indicators and Assessment Unit. “These findings provide a shortcut to allow important conservation decisions to be made as soon as possible and firmly place reptiles on the conservation map."

Despite these gaps in knowledge about specific reptile populations, scientists involved with the research said the comprehensive report is a great way to continue the work of conserving reptile species.

"This is a very important step towards assessing the conservation status of reptiles globally," said Philip Bowles, Coordinator of the Snake and Lizard Red List Authority of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. "The findings sound alarm bells about the state of these species and the growing threats that they face globally. Tackling the identified threats, which include habitat loss and harvesting, are key conservation priorities in order to reverse the declines in these reptiles."

According to a statement, the ZSL and IUCN will continue to place the conservation of reptiles alongside the work being done to save more popular mammal species.