The Threats Facing Reptile Populations and How to Help.
Today reptiles are at great risk of extinction, people hunt them for some reasons such as using their skins for making expensive bags or for medicine as well.
Some of the other reasons why reptiles are going extinct are Increased UVB exposure, sickness, habitat loss caused by the predation of exotic species, and human smuggling.
The three major threats to the surviving populations of reptiles and amphibians are invasive species, infectious illnesses, and habitat loss.
The major threat facing the reptile population are turtles, crocodiles, and snakes.
Our nation’s laws safeguard the whole reptile population. Skinks and geckos cannot be kept in captivity without specific authorization, and it is unlawful to gather them. Any skinks and geckos that you could find in your yard fall under this category.
Some local species have already disappeared or are at risk of doing so despite this legal protection.
In this article, we will further elaborate on the threats the reptile population is facing and also state the solution to that.
Threats faced by the reptile population
Habitat degradation and loss
One of the biggest threats to reptile populations is habitat loss and degradation, which can be brought on by a variety of things such as urban/suburban development, water pollution, changes to aquatic habitat brought on by water withdrawals and stream diversions, and off-road vehicle use in terrestrial habitats. The declines in population size and species diversity have been connected to habitat destruction and loss. By destroying or degrading sites and establishing barriers or dangerous zones (such as a road) between crucial habitat components, development may adversely affect habitat. The rate of dispersion and recolonization can be slowed down by habitat loss and degradation, making it more difficult for local populations to withstand natural calamities or population variations.
Reptiles that live on land or in semi-aquatic environments might both suffer decreases. Desert tortoises, for instance, will periodically travel great distances to move from one colony to another. More than one immigrant from each generation used to be exchanged between communities. Due to habitat fragmentation brought on by terrain changes such as highways, apartment complexes, canals, and fences, tortoises are currently finding it more and more difficult to migrate. Additionally, it was thought that cow grazing in southeast Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains was the primary factor contributing to the loss of native bunchgrasses, which in turn led to a drop in the bunchgrass lizard population. For the cover, protection from predators, and protection from the bitter winter cold, this lizard needs bunchgrasses.
High rates of reptile deaths on highways have been shown in several studies. Amphibian species that migrate in large groups between habitat patches are especially vulnerable to high rates of road-kill.
Roads have been linked to decreased anuran density and population abundance, lower occurrence probability, and negative population genetic impacts.
Snakes and other reptiles sometimes prefer to sunbathe on warm, flat surfaces like roadways.
In a Texas wildlife management region, yearlong research discovered that road traffic significantly impacted reptiles in the fall and spring. 83% of the amphibians that were seen in the spring were discovered dead on the highway.
During the summer rainy (monsoon) season, when amphibians are lured to breeding locations and some snake breeding movements are also significant, road fatality is also high in Arizona.
Conflicts between people and lethal animals are made worse by urban expansion.
In Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona, surrounding desert ecosystems get hundreds of rattlesnakes and dozens of Gila monsters every year from urbanized regions and residential areas.
Evidence does, however, imply that certain translocations might not succeed in displacing a species from its original habitat and/or might put translocated animals at higher risk (e.g., from predation).
Sunlight is necessary for reptiles with cold blood to function properly. However, if they get too hot, their metabolism slows down and they have to move into the shade to cool down.
Rising global temperatures are reducing the range of habitats that reptiles may inhabit, which also narrows the window of opportunity for daily foraging when it’s neither too hot nor too cold. Several kinds of reptiles have their offspring’s sex affected by the ambient temperature. As many turtle eggs develop into males at lower temperatures, the population of male turtles may decrease as a result of climate change.
The common upper respiratory tract illness caused by the bacteria Mycoplasma agassizii is another condition that should be of concern for reptiles. Although most populations of the tortoise do not appear to be affected by this disease, this infectious illness may be contributing to population decreases in desert tortoises in the Mohave Desert. M. agassizii has also been found in box turtles and Florida gopher tortoises in addition to desert tortoises in the Mohave Desert. Runny or damp eyes and a nose are signs of the illness. Direct touch and maybe mucus droplets from an infected animal sneezing are the two main ways that the illness is disseminated. Because they may spread M. agassizii or other diseases, captive tortoises shouldn’t be released into the wild.
As a consequence of pollution, the ozone layer’s thickness in the atmosphere is decreasing, and increasing amounts of UV-B are reaching the earth’s surface. In higher latitudes and during the first few weeks of spring, UV-B levels have increased by an estimated 5–10% per decade since 1979. Reptiles may be more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV radiation than other species of animals because of their “bare” skin. Reptile eggs are now not at risk from a rise in UV-B radiation levels because of their infrequent exposure to UV-B radiation.
UV-B has detrimental effects on intracellular functions, DNA transcription, and interactions with chemicals that make them more hazardous. Both laboratory and field studies have revealed greater rates of death, deformities, and susceptibility to fungus-related sickness. Although opinions differ on whether UV-B is a significant factor in the current decline in amphibians, researchers are worried about ozone depletion and the consequences of growing UV-B levels. Concerningly, UV-B has the ability to interact intimately with toxins, the environment (such as drought), and diseases.
The amount and timing of precipitation can have an impact on reptile populations. It has been suggested that drought is to blame for the dramatic decrease in frog populations. Along with having a negative impact on survival and reproduction, drought can harm frogs indirectly by combining with other elements including illness, UV-B radiation, and pollutant exposure. Even while drought is a normal occurrence, climatic changes, which include drought, may be happening more quickly than species can adapt. One of the primary hypotheses for why amphibian populations may be declining is climate change. In the West, temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees celsius since the 1950s, and in the following century, they are expected to climb by 2 to 5 degrees. The likelihood of droughts is expected to rise by 66–90%.
Amphibians suffer from drought because they depend on surface water that has collected in pools for breeding. When a breeding pond disappears before metamorphosis can start, the whole reproductive effort for the year is squandered. When pond size has reduced owing to drought, an increase in larvae density may have a negative effect on larval survival by delaying development. Early metamorphosis, which is linked to smaller bodies and lower survival rates in juvenile frogs, can also be brought on by pond drying. Post-metamorphic amphibians that engage in non-breeding activities in terrestrial habitats are similarly negatively impacted by drought.
Water must be absorbed from wet or moist surfaces to make up for the water lost through evaporation from the body. Since dehydration is what kills amphibians, they regularly need to rehydrate. Amphibians may be more prone to illness or parasite outbreaks in restricted spaces.
Desert reptiles are impacted by drought because both they and their prey have limited access to free water. Many reptiles rely on their food to provide them with water if they cannot drink free water; if they do not consume enough, they run the danger of dying from desiccation. Prey generally becomes scarcer during droughts. It may be especially crucial for life in the desert where precipitation may not collect since some reptiles tend to draw water from their bodies and drink it.
Chemical contaminants in water resources can come from a variety of sources, including wastewater, unintentional sewage discharges, fuels, solvents, and other chemicals used in construction or maintenance, as well as locally applied herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers. Such poisons can kill amphibians and reptiles both directly and indirectly. reptiles may come into contact with chemical hazards directly from the water or unintentionally by ingesting contaminated food, silt, or soil. Because of their porous skin and prolonged growth in the aquatic environment, they may be especially vulnerable to pollutants. The narrow-headed garter snake and other aquatic and semi-aquatic reptiles may be particularly vulnerable to pollution. Pollutants’ impacts on amphibians are only well understood, and less is known about their impact on reptiles. The main sources of information on the effects of pollution on reptiles are observations of turtles and crocodiles.
Since controlled investigations have indicated a wide range and intensity of sublethal consequences, pollutants may have an impact on frog populations. Even at quantities much below those that are dangerous, chemical stressors have an impact on how effectively frogs can adapt to environmental stress. An important area of research into the reduction in frog populations is the combination of physical and chemical stress.
Threatened by invasive non-native species include the populations of amphibians and reptiles. Native species may be threatened or compete with invasive non-native species. The survival of young Mexican garter snakes (Thamnophis eques), a species that thrives in water, was demonstrated to be somewhat influenced by bullfrogs.
The snakes may, however, survive well in the vicinity of bullfrogs after they reach adult size. Non-native fish represent a major danger to local aquatic amphibians and reptiles.
Native fish compete with non-native fish for resources that are utilized by herpetofauna species like Mexican and narrow-headed garter snakes or are devoured by native fish (Thamnophis rufipunctatus).
For native aquatic amphibians and reptiles, non-native fish pose a serious threat. Native fish are consumed by or compete with non-native fish for resources by herpetofauna species like Mexican and narrow-headed garter snakes.
According to a U.S. Geological Survey study, the availability of smooth-bodied fish with soft fins and the distribution pattern of narrow-headed garter snakes in Oak Creek, Arizona, are two examples.
The lower portions of the creek, where non-native, edible fish with stiff, spiny fins predominate, may be where the snake population is falling. Additionally, non-native fish may feed on local reptiles.
The presence of non-native crayfish has led to the demise of several amphibian and aquatic reptile species in the Southwest. Insects, fish, frogs, small snakes, and young turtles are all consumed by crayfish.
It was deliberate to introduce the Northern or virile crayfish (Oroconectes virilis) as bait for vegetation control. As crayfish populations increase, the local herpetofauna and other prey species are going extinct.
Crayfish alter the aquatic ecosystems where they live by consuming the available aquatic vegetation. One of the non-native species affected is the narrow-headed garter snake, whose young and prey are eaten by crayfish.
A few reptile species are in danger as a result of the invasion of alien plant species. The desert tortoise has suffered because of habitat alteration (such as changes in habitat structure and native plant community composition).
In Arizona, native perennial grasses, shrubs, and annuals have declined while invasive annuals like buffelgrass have grown.
These changes are significant since native flora is necessary for the survival of the tortoise and other species, and the expansion of exotic plants has increased the frequency of fires in places where many of the plants are not well suited to fire. Fire may be dangerous to turtles as well.
The rising temperatures brought on by climate change may have an effect on some species of reptiles. Enhanced juvenile growth rates, changed sex ratios, and accelerated maturation ages are a few examples of consequences on freshwater turtles.
Crocodilians and a few other turtle species might be negatively impacted because of their temperature-dependent sex determination.
Changes in the sex ratio may have an effect on the demographics and lifespan of the population.
Reptiles and amphibians may be impacted if hibernation times change. An animal may endure changes in the maturity of its gonadal organs without a protracted period of hibernation, or it may go hungry over the winter.
The temperature rises throughout the summer may desiccate burrows and render them worthless.
Illegal herpetofauna harvesting may have an effect on some populations in the Southwest. For instance, illegal collection for the pet trade may pose the greatest threat to populations of the American twin-spotted rattlesnake (Crotalus prices).
This species can only be found in the United States, and four different mountain ranges in southeast Arizona may contain it.
The habitat harm caused by collecting reptiles might reduce their population. The cracks and crevices in the rock outcrops that serve as shelters are frequently permanently ruined when collectors break apart and scatter boulders to reveal reptiles from their hiding places.
Domestic pets like dogs may endanger some reptile species in addition to the challenges brought on by invading, non-native species detailed in the previous section.
SAGU researchers looked at the effects of domestic pets running loose and found a problem. In Tucson, a small (about 30) group of tortoises regularly have their shells damaged by domestic or wild dogs since they live in an area that is bordered by urban growth.
The threat facing the reptile population
Additionally “vulnerable” are king snakes. A thorough new evaluation of thousands of species found that more than one in five reptile species are in danger of going extinct.
A total of 10,196 species of reptiles were evaluated, and 21% of them, including the well-known hooded snakes of South and Southeast Asia, were found to be endangered, very endangered, or threatened with extinction.
Many people perceive reptiles to be dull. More focus has also been placed on the conservation of some of the more hairy or feathered vertebrate species.
The Galapagos marine iguana, the only lizard in the world to have evolved to live in the water, is “susceptible” to going extinct.
Image credits wikimedia.org
He lamented “how much evolutionary history may be lost if this specific species” became extinct, pointing out that the lizard had evolved the capacity to graze in water over a period of 5 million years.
Six different sea turtle species are in danger of going extinct.
The seventh is probably also in danger, however, there isn’t enough information to classify it.
According to the study, desert dwellers are less likely to suffer extinction concerns than residents of forests, such as the king cobra. This is partly due to an increase in anthropogenic forest disturbances.
The most endangered reptile.
Crocodiles and turtles are two of the animals that are most in danger.
With 58% of all crocodile species and 50% of all turtle species at risk of extinction, the majority of reptile species, including turtles, are also in danger. Since this is comparable to the most endangered groups of mammals and amphibians, reptiles are not faring much better than other species in this regard.
The creatures most at risk from hunting and the illegal wildlife trade include crocodiles and turtles. This trafficking, which often entails delivering pets (or expensive handbags) to far-off purchasers, endangers 31% of turtle populations. They also come from a group of reptiles that often inhabit wetlands, which are threatened by global urbanization, agricultural development, and climate change.
The most endangered reptiles in the tropics
Several threatened reptile species may be found in the Caribbean, West Africa, Madagascar, and Southeast Asia. According to the most current assessment, there were twice as many threatened reptile species in some of these areas than there were threatened species of other animal groups.
More than half of the reptile species that are threatened by habitat loss may reside in forests. Given the common fate of mammals and birds, conserving forested areas for one group of species would help to ensure the survival of all of them.
How to help?
In certain locations, gardens have become an important home for native reptiles, where all of them have been discovered. Although this varies around the nation, the slowworm and grass snake are the species most likely to be found here. The omnipresent grass snake is more likely to be an outsider than a garden inhabitant. Grass snakes are particularly drawn to garden ponds because they contain fish and amphibian prey.
They may also use compost piles as places to deposit their eggs. The closeness of a garden to other reptile habitats is an important element in deciding whether or not reptiles use it. Reptiles may settle in gardens close to other reptile habitats, such as heathland, allotments, railroad and road embankments, and rough grassland.
Reptiles will typically benefit from using wildlife gardening practices, such as cultivating native plant species, establishing wildflower meadows, and using fewer chemical pesticides. But other, more specialized aspects of gardens can be advantageous to reptiles:
- Many plant structures can offer local shelter as well as tranquil resting locations.
- Low-growing vegetation and rocks are excellent habitats for reptiles because they offer cover from the sun and places to bask.
- Slow worms and grass snakes greatly benefit from compost bins or piles.
- The compost pile should be placed in a sunny area.
- The pile should be as big as it can be.
- Slow worms can be transferred from one heap to the other when mature compost is taken from one of the two heaps or bins.
To aid garden-dwelling reptiles:
- Make a natural pond to draw amphibians, the grass snake’s favorite food.
- You can get cover by letting some grass become long; for instance, in the sunny base of a hedge.
- Build shelters out of stacks of wood or debris.
- A compost pile where grass snakes lay their eggs should not be disturbed from June through September or in the winter.
- Place reptile survey refuges in sunny areas if there is room. In section 13 of our Reptile Habitat Management Handbook, we discuss reptile refuges.
- As opposed to the typical survey impediments, the roofing slates or paving slabs in the garden offer visually less obtrusive refuges.
- Using garden netting improperly might result in injury. Common lizards may benefit from having netting covering a rockery or pile of logs to help them evade cat predators. Any netting should have a mesh that is larger than four millimeters and be kept taut since snakes can become fatally caught in lesser gauge netting.
Reptiles are primarily hunters and have scaly skin and cold blood. Some of the deadliest and most venomous creatures on the planet are among them, such as the saltwater crocodile and the spitting cobra.
Many of these fascinating species are afraid of people and reside in hard-to-reach places like wetlands. The range, population size, and the threat of extinction of reptiles are less well understood than those of birds, amphibians, and mammals. In order to meet the needs of other animals that live in similar surroundings, such as those for food and habitat, wildlife conservationists have historically mostly helped reptiles indirectly.
Currently, a first-of-its-kind global evaluation of more than 10,000 reptile species—roughly 90% of all known species—has shown that 21% require urgent care to avoid extinction. Because reptiles are so diverse, the challenges they face are probably equally complex for all species, from lizards and snakes to turtles and crocodiles.
How can we help reptiles?
A diverse plant structure can provide a combination of secluded basking areas and nearby protection. Rockeries are a great source of habitat for reptiles since the rocks and low-growing plants provide shade and areas to sunbathe. Compost bins or heaps are very beneficial to grass snakes and sluggish worms.
What factors endanger the populations of reptiles?
One of the greatest threats to amphibian and reptile populations is habitat loss and degradation, which can be caused by a number of factors including urban/suburban development, water pollution, changes to aquatic habitat brought on by water withdrawals and stream diversions, and off-road vehicle use in terrestrial habitats.
What leaves reptiles open to attack?
Widespread pollution, global warming, non-native predators, overfishing, habitat destruction, and disease are the primary factors contributing to their demise. According to the Red List maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, 20% of assessed reptiles worldwide are considered endangered.
What environmental factors are important to reptiles?
Temperature and food quality are the two environmental factors most likely to have a substantial influence on lizard growth rates. Because of the thermal restrictions on body temperature, the amount of time that may be spent being active should be positively correlated with lizard development.
Which three statements about reptiles are true?
Due to their impermeable skin, reptiles cannot get wet or have water penetrate through their scales. Reptiles occasionally molt their skin. They shed more frequently as they get younger. You are already aware that a snake shedding its skin continually from head to tail if you’ve ever seen one in person.