One in five reptiles are endangered, according to a study published Wednesday, April 27, 2022. Nature covering more than 10,000 existing species of turtles, crocodiles, lizards or snakes.
The same study shows that conservation efforts for other animals “hairy or feathered” 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 planet’s ecosystems.”predators of harmful species or prey for birds and other animals, insists his colleague Sean O’Brien, president of NatureServe, was quoted in a press release.
Research conducted over 15 years
The published study is a global assessment of the risk of extinction of reptiles conducted by “more than 15 years” and signed by some fifty authors, while collecting information with the support of hundreds of scientists from six continents, the three editors explained during a press conference.
Kinds “threatened” are divided into three categories: “vulnerable”, ” in danger “ Where “Endangered” according to the IUCN Red List classification, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, one of the main NGOs in this field.
Reptiles, however, are less dangerous than mammals.
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.
The main danger for reptiles? “Loss of habitat
“Loss of habitat […] continues to be the main threat, notes Neil Cox of the IUCN. Of all the species studied, turtles and crocodiles are even more of a concern because they are victims of overexploitation and persecution. A source of food and victims of beliefs associated with their healing properties, they are also captured to become pets for the former. But they also hunted for their danger to the latter.
Another example is the king cobra, an iconic animal found widely in India and Southeast Asia. “It was supposed to be in decline, now it is classified as vulnerable”Neil Cox notes. He is punished by the disappearance of the forest in which he lives, due to the exploitation of the forests or their conversion into agricultural land.
Global warming threatens 10% of reptiles
As for climate change, it can directly threaten “10 or 11% reptiles”considers Bruce Young, even if this figure is likely an underestimate by the study, in part because the negative impact will be observed in the longer term, while the IUCN red list criteria are associated with more immediate effects, spanning the next three generations. 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 years of evolution will be lost if all endangered species die out”he warns. Among them are the Galapagos marine iguana, “the only lizard in the world that has adapted to aquatic life”he recalls.
measurements “urgent and purposeful” necessary to protect the most endangered species, the authors of the study argue, “particularly those lizards endemic to the islands threatened by introduced predators and those more directly affected by humans”.