The same study highlights that conservation efforts for other animals “fluffy or feathery“also benefit reptiles, and the latter”deserve the same attention” emphasizes Bruce Young, chief zoologist at the NGO NatureServe and co-author of an article published in Nature. “These are amazing creatures that play an indispensable role in the ecosystems of the planet.“Predators of harmful species or prey for birds and other animals,” insists his colleague Sean O’Brien, president of NatureServe, quoted in a press release.
The published study is a global assessment of the risk of extinction of reptiles conducted byover 15 yearssigned by some fifty authors, supported in gathering information by hundreds of scientists from six continents, the three editors explained during a press conference. “Endangered” species are classified into three categories: “Vulnerable”, “Endangered”, or ” endangered” according to the IUCN Red List classification, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the main NGOs in this field.
Turtles, crocodiles, king cobra…
The study shows that globally reptiles are less threatened than mammals or amphibians, but more so than birds. Some regions are more open: Southeast Asia, West Africa, northern Madagascar, northern Andes, Caribbean. And reptiles living in forests are the most threatened: 30% of them versus 14% of those living in arid environments.
“Loss of habitat (…) continues to be the main threat“, emphasizes Neil Cox of the IUCN. Of all the species studied, turtles and crocodiles are of even greater concern, victims of overexploitation and persecution. Sources of food and victims of beliefs associated with their medicinal properties, they are also captured to become pets for the former, but also hunted because of their danger to the latter.
Another example is the king cobra, an iconic animal found widely in India and Southeast Asia. “Thought to be in decline, now listed as vulnerable“, notes Neil Cox. He is punished by the disappearance of the forest in which he lives, due to the exploitation of forests or their transformation into agricultural land.
Billions of years of evolution
As for climate change, it can directly threaten.”10 or 11% reptiles“, says Bruce Young, even if this figure is likely to be an underestimate by the study, in particular because the negative impact will be observed in the longer term, while the IUCN red list criteria are associated with more immediate consequences, over a period covering the following three generations of a species or a decade, whichever is longer.
For his part, Professor Blair Hedges, a biodiversity specialist at Temple University (USA), warns against losing the “genetic memory” of these animals. “sixteen billion yearsevolution will disappear if all endangered species disappear“, – he warns. Among them – the Galapagos marine iguana”,the only lizard in the world that has adapted to aquatic life“, he recalls.
“Urgent and targeted” measures are needed to protect the most endangered species, the authors of the study argue, “especially lizards endemic to islands threatened by introduced predators and those most affected by humans“.
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