1 in 5 reptiles on verge of extinction

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 15, 2013 09:40 hrs

19 percent of the reptiles in the world are estimated to be threatened with extinction, a survey has revealed.

The study, by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in conjunction with experts from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), is the first of its kind summarising the global conservation status of reptiles.

More than 200 world renowned experts assessed the extinction risk of 1,500 randomly selected reptiles from across the globe.

Out of the estimated 19 percent of reptiles threatened with extinction, 12 percent are classified as Critically Endangered, 41 percent Endangered and 47 percent Vulnerable.

Three Critically Endangered species were also highlighted as possibly extinct.

One of these, a jungle runner lizard Ameiva vittata, has only ever been recorded in one part of Bolivia.

Levels of threat remain particularly high in tropical regions, mainly as a result of habitat conversion for agriculture and logging.

With the lizard's habitat virtually destroyed, two recent searches for the species have been unsuccessful.

Dr. Monika Bohm, lead author on the paper said that reptiles are often associated with extreme habitats and tough environmental conditions, so it is easy to assume that they will be fine in our changing world.

"However, many species are very highly specialised in terms of habitat use and the climatic conditions they require for day to day functioning. This makes them particularly sensitive to environmental changes," Dr. Bohm added.

Extinction risk is not evenly spread throughout this highly diverse group: freshwater turtles are at particularly high risk, mirroring greater levels of threat in freshwater biodiversity around the world.

Overall, this study estimated 30 percent of freshwater reptiles to be close to extinction, which rises to 50 percnet when considering freshwater turtles alone, as they are also affected by national and international trade.

Although threat remains lower in terrestrial reptiles, the often restricted ranges, specific biological and environmental requirements, and low mobility make them particularly susceptible to human pressures.

In Haiti, six of the nine species of Anolis lizard included in this study have an elevated risk of extinction, due to extensive deforestation affecting the country.

The study is published in the journal of Biological Conservation. (ANI)

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