(ORDO NEWS) — At least one in five reptile species is threatened with extinction, including more than half of turtles and crocodiles, according to the first major global assessment of so-called cold-blooded creatures.
The catastrophic decline in biodiversity around the world is increasingly seen as a threat to life on Earth – and no less important than the interconnected threat of climate change.
Threats to other creatures are well documented. More than 40 percent of amphibians, 25 percent of mammals and 13 percent of birds may be endangered.
But until now, researchers have not had a complete picture of what proportion of reptiles are at risk.
In a new global assessment published in the journal Nature, researchers analyzed 10,196 reptile species and ranked them using criteria from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
They found that at least 1,829 species – 21 percent – are vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered.
“It’s just a staggering number of species that we see threatened,” said study co-author Neil Cox, head of the IUCN International Biodiversity Assessment Unit and co-lead of the study.
“Now we know what threats each reptile species faces, and the global community can take the next step… and invest in overcoming an often too underestimated and serious biodiversity crisis.”
Crocodiles and turtles have been found to be among the most at risk species, with about 58 percent and 50 percent of reptile species, respectively, at risk.
According to Cox, this is often associated with “overexploitation and harassment.”
According to him, crocodiles are killed for their meat and to remove them from settlements, and turtles are the object of the pet trade and are used in folk medicine.
Another notorious endangered species is the dreaded king cobra, the world’s largest venomous snake. It can grow up to five meters in length and feeds on other snakes in forests from India to Southeast Asia.
She has been classified as vulnerable, meaning she is “very close to extinction,” Cox said at a press briefing on the study.
“It’s a real iconic species in Asia and it’s unfortunate that even species as widespread as this one are really suffering and in decline,” he said, adding that deforestation and deliberate human attacks are among the biggest threats to snakes.
Bruce Young, chief zoologist at NatureServe, who co-led the study, said the endangered reptiles are mostly concentrated in Southeast Asia, West Africa, northern Madagascar, the northern Andes and the Caribbean.
The researchers found that reptiles that live in arid environments such as deserts, grasslands and savannahs are “significantly less threatened” than reptiles that live in forested environments, he explained.
Agriculture, deforestation, invasive species and urban development have been cited as threats to reptiles, while humans also trade pets, kill them for food or out of fear.
Climate change has been found to pose a direct threat to about 10 percent of reptile species, although the researchers said this figure is likely an underestimate because it does not take into account long-term threats such as rising sea levels or climate-related indirect hazards. such as diseases.
The researchers were surprised to find that conservation efforts targeting mammals, birds and amphibians have helped reptiles to some extent, although they stressed that the study highlights the urgent need to conserve some species.
Furry and feathered
Young said the reptile assessment, which involved hundreds of scientists from around the world, took about 15 years to complete due to lack of funding.
“Reptiles aren’t charismatic for a lot of people. It’s just that some more furry or feathered vertebrate species have been getting more attention lately,” he said.
The researchers hope the new assessment will help spur international action to halt biodiversity loss.
Nearly 200 countries are currently participating in global biodiversity negotiations in an effort to conserve nature, including a key milestone of 30 percent of the Earth’s surface protected by 2030.
“Through work like this, we advertise the importance of these creatures. They are part of the tree of life, just like everyone else, and equally deserving of attention,” Young said.
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