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Reptiles Under Threat

19% of the world’s reptiles are currently threatened with extinction according to a paper published by the Zoological Society of London last week. More than 200 experts looked at the extinction risk of 1,500 randomly selected reptiles from around the world.

Image courtesy of Sophie Stanhope, Frontier Madagascar volunteer

The paper was released in conjunction with IUCN Species Survival Commission experts. It was printed in the Journal of Biological Conservation and is the first of its kind.

Out of the 19% of reptiles threatened with extinction, 12% classified as Critically Endangered, 41% Endangered and 47% Vulnerable. There were also 3 critically endangered which could now be extinct; the jungle runner lizard (Ameiva vittata) has only ever been spotted in one part of Bolivia.

Habitat loss in tropical regions caused by agriculture and logging is one of the main threats to the reptile’s survival. Many species of reptile are highly specialised to deal with their particular extreme climate and habitat and so are less able to adapt easily to changes.

Freshwater reptiles were some of the most threatened species with 30% of them being close to extinction and 50% of freshwater turtles alone were found to be nearing extinction.

Land reptiles are at a lower risk however they often are less able to move to new habitats because of their low mobility and specific environmental needs. In Haiti, 6 out of 9 species of Anolis Lizard included in the study have an increased risk of extinction because of the large amount of deforestation occurring in the country.

Collectively referred to as ‘reptiles’, snakes, lizards, amphisbaenians, crocodiles, turtles, tortoises and tuataras have played a vital part in the world’s ecosystem since they arrived 300 million years ago.

By Jenny Collins

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