Reptiles face increasing threats

Reptiles face increasing threats

Reptiles across South Africa, Eswatini, and Lesotho face increasing threats to their survival.

These threats include amongst others habitat loss, climate change, and exploitation for the pet trade. However, amidst these challenges, there is a growing recognition of the importance of conservation efforts to protect these invaluable species.

The authors of Conservation Status of the Reptiles of South Africa, Eswatini, and Lesotho estimate that the proportion of species threatened with extinction in this region has almost doubled since 1990, underscoring the evolving challenges faced by these animals.

Of particular note is the decline of the lizard Scelotes inornatus over the last 50 years, emphasising the importance of timely conservation interventions.

A team of  herpetologists, including Krystal Tolley from the South African National Biodiversity Institute and Graham Alexander from the University of the Witwatersrand, has collaborated on a new book,  Conservation Status of the Reptiles of South Africa, Eswatini, and Lesotho. Published as part of the Suricata series, this comprehensive publication delves into the conservation status of all 401 indigenous terrestrial reptiles in the region.

Conserving biodiversity

The book represents a significant milestone in ongoing efforts to assess and conserve biodiversity, providing a meticulous evaluation of the extinction risk faced by reptiles in South Africa, Eswatini, and Lesotho. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature‘s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species serves as the framework for these assessments, ensuring a rigorous and standardised approach.

Biodiversity loss, one of the most significant challenges that faces South Africa, and the world, needs action. The Red List is a vital tool designed to evaluate a species’ risk of extinction, utilising the best available data at the time of assessment.

Updating the list of threatened species is crucial due to the dynamic threat landscape; evolution in understanding due to advancements in taxonomy, data quality, and analytical tools; and conservation relevance.

Outdated assessments can misallocate resources, directing attention to threats that are no longer significant or neglecting emerging threats, thus affecting the conservation of these species.

Reptiles, often overlooked, play a crucial role in ecosystems, with more than 12 000 species globally that contribute significantly to biodiversity. However, recent global reviews have highlighted alarming declines, with over 20% of reptile species at risk of extinction.

Biodiversity loss, one of the most significant challenges that faces South Africa, and the world, needs action.

The book identifies species in various threat categories, including Extinct, Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. The assessments reveal that 7.6% of the region’s reptile species are at risk of extinction, with an additional 5.6% considered Near Threatened.

Despite these concerning statistics, not all news is bad. Against a global back-drop, South Africa has fewer threatened reptile species than other regions, suggesting that current declines due to habitat loss have not yet passed the point of no return for threatened species. 

The book represents a valuable resource for researchers, conservationists, and anyone passionate about preserving the richness of the reptile species.

Conservation Status of the Reptiles of South Africa, Eswatini, and Lesotho is now available for purchase at The SANBI Bookshop in Pretoria or online at www.sanbi.org.za in hard copy or as a free PDF download.

This publication serves as a crucial resource for researchers, conservationists, and anyone dedicated to preserving our rich reptile biodiversity.

Reptiles face increasing threats
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