One out of five reptile species at risk of extinction

Published online 28 April 2022

Most of the 1,800 vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered reptile species are located in regions where other animals are also under threat.

Letizia Diamante

Central African slender-snouted crocodile
Central African slender-snouted crocodile
Leyo/ CC BY-SA 3.0 CH
More than 20% of reptile species are under threat, including 50% of crocodile species and around 58% of turtle species, according to a new study. Conservation efforts directed to other animal groups have probably incidentally benefitted reptiles, but actions on some individual threatened species are needed in the future.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List – the most comprehensive inventory of imperilled animals, fungi and plants, about 13% of bird, 25% of mammal and 41% of amphibian species are threatened with extinction, but data on reptiles has been limited. 

An international team, including researchers of the Environment and Protected Areas Authority of the Government of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, organised 48 workshops worldwide to consult 961 field scientists about the conservation status of reptiles. The team applied the IUCN Red List criteria to assess the extinction risk of 10,196 reptile species. They found that more than 1,800 species are classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered, with about 25% of them living outside protected areas. 

Most threatened reptiles occupy geographical areas where other animals are also at risk of extinction. They are concentrated in South-East Asia, West Africa, northern Madagascar, the northern Andes and the Caribbean. Forest-dwelling reptiles are more threatened than those living in arid environments due to increased vulnerability to loss of habitat caused by agriculture, logging and urban development. Hunting for consumption and trade affects more than 30% of all turtle species. 

Conservation strategies aimed at other animal groups are likely to protect reptiles living in the same habitat, but the researchers also listed 31 threatened reptile species that reside in areas devoid of other threatened animals. In these cases, targeted actions are needed to safeguard individual species.

“This study is not only important but crucial for the advance of this research field and consequently for promoting conservation strategies for reptiles worldwide,” says ecologist Luisa M. Diele-Viegas from Federal University of Alagoas in Brazil, who was not involved in this study. 

“Since the last globally agreed upon biodiversity targets, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, expired in 2020, we are in need of a new framework. It’s critical that the world’s governments agree on truly effective measures and means to assess their value if we are to turn around this biodiversity crisis,” says Bruce Young, NatureServe's chief zoologist and senior conservation scientist.


Cox, N. et al. A global reptile assessment highlights shared conservation needs of tetrapods. Nature (2022).