One fifth of world's reptiles endangered, says report

Posted by Kate Taylor

Almost one in five of the world's reptile species is threatened with extinction, a report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) warns.

Of the estimated 19 percent of reptiles threatened with extinction, 12 percent are classified as critically endangered, 41 percent as endangered and 47 percent vulnerable.

Indeed, three of the critically endangered species may already beextinct, including the jungle runner lizard Ameiva vittata: it's only ever been recorded in one part of Bolivia, and two recent searches for the species drew a blank.

"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," says report author Dr Monika Böhm.

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

Not all types of reptile are equally endangered. Freshwater turtles are at particularly high risk, with an estimated 50 percent of species under threat. While the threat is lower in land-dwelling reptiles, they are particularly susceptible to human pressures. In Haiti, for example, six of the nine species of Anolis lizard studied were found to have a high risk of extinction, due to extensive deforestation affecting the country.

"This is a very important step towards assessing the conservation status of reptiles globally," says 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."