More than one in five reptile species in the world are at risk of extinction, researchers have found in a new paper that marks the culmination of more than 20 years of slow research. In addition to the man-made threats to their survival, the scaled creatures have fallen victim to bias in protection priorities.
Conservationists with limited resources have had to catch up in their efforts to mitigate the threats to turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes and tuatara (the latest in an ancient lineage of reptiles that roamed the Earth with dinosaurs). Similar comprehensive assessments for birds, mammals, and amphibians (all categorized as tetrapods or four-limbed vertebrates) were completed more than a decade ago.
Why is there a lack of data for reptiles in particular? They just haven’t gotten the same kind of sympathy from financiers as their light-hearted counterparts, say authors of the new paper published today in the journal. Nature.
“Reptiles aren’t charismatic to a lot of people, and there’s just been a lot more focus on some of the more furry or feathered species of vertebrates for conservation,” Bruce Young, study co-leader† said during a press call. “But through persistence, we were able to find the funding needed to complete the research.”
With the new global reptile assessment, conservationists have a clearer picture of which species need the most help. This is how the iconic King Cobra surprised researchers. It is currently listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). But without this new assessment, conservationists wouldn’t have known that “it’s very close to extinction,” Neil Cox, another co-leader of the study, said on the call. The study also found that 31 reptile species have already gone extinct.
To find out how endangered reptiles are around the world, scientists started their assessment of 10,196 species in 1996. However, the bulk of the data came from 48 separate workshops convened between 2004 and 2019. During the workshops, reptile experts pulled together information vital to determining the extinction risk of several species. But because it took so long to do all this, about 15 percent of the data they collected could already be considered outdated.
In addition, their assessments were inconclusive for nearly 15 percent of the species because there was not enough information about their distribution, population status or threats. That’s a problem in conservation efforts for all kinds of animals, because this kind of research takes a lot of time and money.
More than 20,000 species on the Red List of Threatened Species are considered ‘deficient in data’. That list was compiled by the IUCN, which, along with environmental groups NatureServe and Conservation International, led the newly published research on reptiles.
Reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds are all in the same rocky boat when it comes to the threat of extinction. About 41 percent of amphibians, 25 percent of mammals, and 14 percent of birds are listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered.
While this new research has found that an alarming 21 percent of reptile species — 1,829 individual species — are at risk of extinction, this may be an underestimate. With biodiversity in general declining around the world, species with outdated assessments are now likely to find themselves in even more difficult conditions, the study suggests.
That includes turtles and crocodiles, which have one of the highest risks of extinction among reptile species and were more likely to have outdated assessments. About 58 percent of the turtles and 50 percent of the crocodiles were in danger of extinction.
To complicate matters, the research was limited to threats that would be faced over the next ten years or three generations (whichever is longer), meaning that longer-term threats, such as climate change, would be difficult to address. were quantifying.
Focused efforts are needed on some of the most vulnerable species facing unique threats. For example, the greatest danger faced by turtles and crocodiles is hunting (including the animal/pet trade). But the biggest threats to all reptiles, the researchers found, are agriculture, urban development and logging — since most reptile species are found in forests. That means broader conservation efforts for other forest-dwelling creatures — including birds, mammals and amphibians — can go a long way toward helping their sadly less-loved reptile neighbors.
SOURCE – www.theverge.com