AN ANCIENT LINEAGE
Stretching 300 million years back into Earth’s history, the story of reptiles is of life lived in cold blood. Dependent on the warmth of the sun to fuel their metabolism, reptiles may seem primal yet they are an amazing group of animals. Coming in all different colours, shapes and sizes, reptiles are a most diverse and versatile group of species found on all continents except Antarctica. From crocodiles to turtles, lizards to snakes, tuataras to toirtoises they have colonised both land and sea over the course of their ancient lineage.
Reptiles are also an important part of the food chain both as predators and prey and perform valuable ecosystem services such as seed dispersal, pollination, control of pest species and are also a food for a wide variety of other animals.
A VARIETY OF THREATS
The great majority of reptile species show a negative response to anthropogenic manipulation of habitat worldwide. Today, the main threats to reptiles include habitat loss, over-exploitation and climate change. Additionally, invasive species can also threaten native populations on islands and the uncontrolled pet trade is a problem in certain families. In fact the first evaluation of a representative sample of reptiles found that more than 1 in 5 reptiles in non Data-Deficient categories are threatened with extinction.
But the proportion of species threatened varies across groups. For example, some 43% of crocodilians, while only 12% of snakes and 20% of lizards are threatened. Furthermore, a recent study estimated 30% of freshwater reptiles to be close to extinction, a percentage which rises to 50% when considering freshwater turtles alone, as they are also affected by national and international trade. Broad species level differences most probably reflect differences in geography, range size, habitat specificity and biology as well as threat intensity.
IUCN SPECIALIST GROUPS
The IUCN-SSC Reptile Specialist Group is a global network of dedicated experts who donate their time and expertise to create a community from where practical reptilian conservation can be advanced based on a solid foundation of science. In addition to the global network are 11 species specialist groups dedicated to particular groups of reptiles such as tortoises, boas and pythons, marine turtles, iguanas, chameleons and anoline lizards to name a few.