There are currently over 9,000 species of non-avian reptiles described worldwide. In order to track the status and trends of this highly diverse species group, we conducted a sampled assessment of 1,500 randomly chosen species (Böhm et al. (2013) Biological Conservation 157: 372-385) , to complement the Global Reptile Assessment carried out by the IUCN.
Reptiles have had a long and complex evolutionary history, which produced a diverse group of animals adapted to almost every temperate, tropical, terrestrial, freshwater and marine habitat. Ecologically, reptiles play important roles in natural systems as predators, prey and commensal species and, like amphibians, their sensitivity to change makes them excellent bioindicators for the health of our environment.
Our assessment shows that worldwide, nearly one in five reptiles is threatened with extinction. Freshwater reptiles show an alarmingly high level of threat, with an estimated 52% of freshwater turtles threatened with extinction. Overall, threat levels are highest in the tropical regions (for example, around one in four reptiles is threatened with extinction in the Afrotropics). The main drivers of extinction risk are human-induced habitat loss and harvesting, threat processes which we urgently need to mitigate in order to safeguard the world’s reptiles.