Photos: 40% of Madagascar's reptiles at risk of extinction

November 10, 2011

The critically endangered radiated tortoise. All photos by Rhett Butler

40 percent of Madagascar's terrestrial reptiles are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and over-collection for the pet trade, reports the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its latest update of the Red List of Threatened Species.

Experts from around the world conducted the assessment of 370 native terrestrial reptile species found in Madagascar, including snakes, lizards, crocodiles, turtles, and tortoises. Overall 22 were found to be critically endangered, or at immediate risk of going extinct.

The "critically endangered" is dominated by tortoises, chameleons, and geckos sought after in the exotic pet trade or limited to a narrow geographic range, often due to habitat destruction. Notable members of the list include the Radiated Tortoise, the Ploughshare Tortoise, the Madagascar Big-headed Turtle, the Flat-tailed Tortoise, the Spider Tortoise, the Belalanda Chameleon, the Namoroka Leaf Chameleon, Tarzan's Chameleon, and Rothschild's Skink.

The Panther chameleon, while popular in the pet trade, is not endangered.

Philip Bowles, Biodiversity Assessment and Ecosystem Program Officer at Conservation International, which was involved in the assessment and runs conservation programs in Madagascar, said the findings would help prioritize efforts to save the island's most at risk species.

"Many of Madagascar's reptiles - 95% of which are found nowhere else and which include charismatic species of chameleons, geckos and tortoises - are dependent on forests under heavy pressure from human activities," he told mongabay.com. "Learning that 40% of the island's reptiles are threatened with extinction is an important step in both highlighting the severity of Madagascar's biodiversity crisis and in guiding conservation efforts on this island"

Uroplatus fimbriatus gecko on Nosy Mangabe. This leaf-tailed gecko is not immediately threatened.

Madagascar is famous for its diversity of reptiles, which together with lemurs and stunning landscapes, make it a top destination for nature lovers. Accordingly, ecotourism has emerged as one of Madagascar's most important service industries.

Brookesia peyrierasi chameleon is listed as "vulnerable".

Parson's chameleon is listed as "near threatened".

O'Shaughnessy's Chameleon is listed as "vulnerable".

Koch's Day Gecko is not threatened.

More pictures of Madagascar's reptiles.

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mongabay.com (November 10, 2011).

Photos: 40% of Madagascar's reptiles at risk of extinction.