Ugly reptiles are in danger of extinction because they are “less charismatic”.

Reptiles such as the Argentine tortoise (left) and the sand lizard Liolaemus cuyumhue (right) are threatened with extinction. (Photo credit: Luciano Avila/Newsflash)

Reptiles such as the Argentine tortoise (left) and the sand lizard Liolaemus cuyumhue (right) are threatened with extinction. (Photo credit: Luciano Avila/Newsflash)

More than one in five reptile species is threatened with extinction – but no one seems to care.

This is because they are considered “less charismatic” and frankly uglier than mammals or birds.

According to a 15-year research project, huge numbers of reptiles are threatened with extinction as a result.

The project involved 961 scientists from 24 countries and examined data from 10,196 reptile species. To put that in context, there are only about 11,000 known species on the planet.

The scientists assessed the risks and concluded that 21.1 percent of all living things are at risk.

American zoologist Bruce Young co-led the research, which was carried out with the help of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

Young revealed that he was having a hard time finding funding to complete the project.

“Reptiles are less charismatic than mammals or birds,” he said. “There’s not much love for snakes.”

Because of this, he said, the project got off to a late start.

He said: “This is the first time this analysis has been conducted globally.

“It was done for birds in the 1990s, for amphibians in 2003 and for mammals in 2008, but there was great doubt as to what happened to reptiles.”

The American zoologist Bruce Young co-led the research.

American zoologist Bruce Young co-led the research (Credits: NatureServe)

Reptiles are now known to fare worse than birds, of which 13.6 percent are endangered.

However, they fare better than mammals and amphibians, of which 25.4 and 40.7 percent are endangered, respectively.

The main threats to reptiles are deforestation, urban expansion, conversion of land to increase agricultural or livestock acreage, and human-introduced invasive species.

Young said, “In the case of turtles and crocodiles, the main threat is hunting.”

Climate change is also a growing threat as it can skew the male to female ratio in the offspring of certain species.

For example, some turtles are born males or females depending on the temperatures experienced by the eggs they hatch from.

Young added: “There are some species that are already threatened by climate change. For others, however, it is longer-term, such as those inhabiting islands threatened by rising sea levels.’

The study found that 30 percent of reptiles that inhabit forested areas are at risk, compared to 14 percent in arid habitats.

But while there isn’t much love for reptiles, efforts to preserve their cuter cousins ​​are believed to have inadvertently helped them.

Python portrait - stock photo

“There’s not much love for snakes.” (Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Young, who is a member of the NGO NatureServe, said: “The great effort to protect the most well-known animals has probably helped protect many reptiles as well.

“Habitat protection is essential to protect reptiles and other vertebrates from threats such as agricultural activities and urban development.”

Sean T. O’Brien, President of NatureServe added, “Reptiles are not often used as inspiration for conservation efforts, but they are fascinating creatures and play an indispensable role in ecosystems around the world.

“We all benefit from its role in controlling pests and as food for birds and other animals.”

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Justin Scacco

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