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Endangered reptiles

It is cause for alarm and not merely among wildlife enthusiasts that 20 per cent of reptiles across the world are threatened with extinction.

SNS | New Delhi |

It is cause for alarm and not merely among wildlife enthusiasts that 20 per cent of reptiles across the world are threatened with extinction. This isn’t merely due to problems relating to reproduction, but owing to what they call the “depredations” of man. The crux of the matter must be that the reptiles are reportedly losing their habitats because of agriculture, urban development and logging, going to the first global reptile assessment. 

Facing an existential threat, so to speak, are creatures from the inch-long geckos to the king cobra and this is in addition to the 1829 species of reptiles, notably lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodiles. There is already in West Bengal a ban on the sale of turtles, which used to be in considerable demand for their delectable meat. The finding of the research was published in Wednesday’s edition of Nature. 

It has reinforced scientific evidence that under- lines a biodiversity crisis caused by humans, and of a kind that is similar to climate change in the considerable effect it could have on life on Earth. “It’s another drumbeat on the path to ecological catastrophe,” is the grim foreboding articulated by Bruce Young, co-leader of the study and a senior scientist at Nature Serve, a non-profit conservation research group. Such a collapse may also threaten humans because a healthy ecosystem can provide necessities such as fertile soil, pollination and water supplies. 

Particularly affected among the reptiles are turtles, with almost 60 per cent of the species facing the risk of extinction. Crocodiles rank next in the order of endangered reptiles. To compound the loss of habitat, both groups have been depleted over time by hunting and fishing. Indeed, hunting and poaching appear to be the strand that binds the endangered reptiles with other wildlife, notably tigers. This is not to forget the fate of elephants that are flung to their death by speeding trains, most particularly in North Bengal, or hunted for ivory in other parts of the world. 

Those who have crafted the report are surprised at how neatly the threats to reptiles have overlapped with those to other animals. The nub of the matter must be that scientists have known less about the needs of reptiles compared with mammals, birds and amphibians. Reptiles haven’t really “slipped away” because they require different conservation methods. “There’s no rocket science in protecting reptiles; we have all the tools we need,” is the observation of a scientist. The prescription of the professional is worthy of emulation ~ “Reduce tropical deforestation, control illegal trade, improve productivity in agriculture so we don’t have to expand our agricultural areas. All that stuff will help reptiles, just as it will help many, many, many other species.” There is a parable to the story. Reptiles and wildlife generally are crying out for utmost protection. This intrinsically is the responsibility of man.