One in five reptiles in the world faces extinction

San Cristobal Giant Tortoise. It lives only on the island of the same name in the Galapagos and is classified as Endangered (Photograph: Diego F. Cisneros-Heredia / Terrestrial Zoology Laboratory Archive, IBIOTROP-USFQ Institute)

21% of all reptile species in the world could become extinct. A new study, billed as the largest to date, concludes that one in five reptiles in the world faces extinction.

The threats facing these animals They put at risk more than 1800 species of lizards, snakes, crocodiles and turtles that are struggling to survive.

The investigation was led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), NatureServe Y Conservation Internationalin association with the San Francisco de Quito University (USFQ). The team of scientists was made up of representatives from 24 countries on six continents.

They analyzed the conservation needs of 10,196 reptile species compared to mammals, birds and amphibians.. The reptiles in the study include turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes and the tuatara, the only living member of a lineage that evolved in the Triassic period approximately 200-250 million years ago.

The study concludes that 3 out of 10 reptiles that live in forests are at risk of extinction, compared to 1 in 10 of these animals that live in arid places. The main threats are deforestation and the conversion of forests into areas for agriculture.

The study reveals that if the 1,829 threatened reptiles became extinct, the planet would lose 15 billion evolutionary history. According to the researchers, reptiles perform important ecosystem services fundamental to human societies, such as pest control, and contribute significantly to a wide variety of biomedical research programs.

3 out of 10 reptiles that live in forests are at risk of extinction, compared to 1 in 10 of these animals that live in arid places (Federico Kacoliris)
3 out of 10 reptiles that live in forests are at risk of extinction, compared to 1 in 10 of these animals that live in arid places (Federico Kacoliris)

In that sense, the authors point out that it is still urgent to protect the most endangered reptile species, especially the endemic lizards of the islands threatened by introduced predators and those that are more directly affected by humans. Restrictions on the use of fishing gear – such as longlines – and hunting are necessary to preserve turtles and crocodiles. Half of these animals are in danger of extinction.

“The results of the Global Reptile Assessment point to the need to intensify global efforts to conserve them,” he said. Neil Cox, study co-leader and manager of the IUCN-Conservation International Biodiversity Assessment Unit. “Because reptiles are so diverse, they face a wide range of threats in a variety of habitats. A multifaceted action plan is necessary to protect these species, with all the evolutionary history they represent”.

For its part, Diego Cisneros-Herediaprofessor at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ and associate researcher at the INABIO National Institute of Biodiversity, who is a co-author of the study, explained about the study that “this is the first global evaluation of reptiles and we have managed to identify where reptiles need more help, allowing us to focus efforts to counter their global extinction crisis.”

Referring to Ecuador, Cisneros-Heredia said that “In Ecuador, several species of reptiles are under great threat, putting their long-term survival at risk. Some species in danger of extinction are found in areas close to cities such as Quito, Guayaquil or Ibarra, where they are being impacted by the destruction of their habitats and urban growth. The protection of natural environments is essential to protect reptiles, as well as other vertebrates, which are part of the nation’s natural heritage.”

According to the study published in the scientific journal Nature, global evaluations reveal that, among tetrapods – vertebrate animals with four limbs -, 40.7% of amphibians, 25.4% of mammals and 13.6% of birds are threatened with extinction. Due to a lack of global assessments, the authors explain, reptiles have been omitted from conservation prioritization analyzes that encompass other tetrapods.

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