The king cobra is “vulnerable”. According to a comprehensive new evaluation of thousands of species published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, more than one in every five reptile species worldwide faces the danger of extinction.
Out of the 10,196 reptile species studied, 21% were classified as endangered, severely endangered, or vulnerable to extinction.
“This work is a very significant achievement — it adds to our knowledge of where threatened species are, and where we must work to protect them,” said Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm. He was not a part of the study.
Mammal, bird, and amphibian assessments had already happened. Thereby, impacting government decisions regarding how to define national park boundaries and provide environmental funds.
The reptile study, which enlisted the help of roughly 1,000 experts and 52 co-authors, began in 2005. Fundraising issues hindered the project, according to co-author Bruce Young, a zoologist with the nonprofit science group NatureServe.
Reptiles’ greatest threat: Habitat destruction
Young bemoaned the apparent charisma gap, saying, “There’s a lot more focus on furrier, feathered species of vertebrates for conservation”. Reptiles, on the other hand, are fascinating and important to ecosystems, according to him.
According to co-author Blair Hedges, a biologist at Temple University, the Galapagos marine iguana, the world’s only lizard adapted to sea life, is “vulnerable” to extinction. He lamented “how much evolutionary history can be lost if this single species” went extinct. Thus, saying it took the lizard 5 million years to adapt to forage in the sea.
Six of the world’s sea turtle species are in danger. The seventh is most certainly in jeopardy as well, but experts are unable to classify it due to a lack of data.
Habitat destruction is likewise the greatest threat to reptile existence on the planet. Co-author Neil Cox is a manager at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s biodiversity assessment unit. He says hunting, invasive species, and climate change are all risks.
The study discovered that forest-dwelling reptiles, like the king cobra, are more likely to face extinction than desert-dwelling reptiles. It is because forests experience more human disruptions.