Iconic species such as the Komodo dragon and the loggerhead turtle could vanish in the near future as a groundbreaking report found that a fifth of reptiles are at risk of becoming extinct.
Habitat loss and human persecution were the key drivers of their decline, with scientists hoping an upcoming UN biodiversity conference could start to turn things around.
Over half of turtles and crocodiles could be driven to the edge in the coming decades, as human hunting drives them towards extinction.
The first comprehensive conservation assessment of reptiles found that 21.1% of the animals were classed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered. This is significantly more than birds, of which 13.6% are threatened, but less than the 40.7% of amphibians at risk of extinction.
The scientists warn that the equivalent of 15.6 billion years of evolutionary history, longer than the age of the universe itself, will be lost if these species are wiped out.
Co-author Mike Hoffmann, the Head of Wildlife Recovery at the Zoological Society of London, says that this will lead to the extinction of unique species with ways of living unlike any other in the world. From turtles that breathe through their genitals to chameleons the size of a chickpea, reptiles are an eclectic bunch,' says Mike. 'Many reptiles, like the tuatara or pig-nosed turtle, are like living fossils, whose loss would spell the end of not just species that play unique ecosystem roles, but also many billions of years of evolutionary history. Their future survival depends on us putting nature at the heart of all we do.'
The researchers have warned that the outcome of international negotiations on biodiversity set to be held in China later this year will be 'especially critical' to saving these threatened species.
Posted On: 28/04/2022