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endangered species



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Threatened and Endangered Species

The classifications of "threatened" and "endangered" are vital to the survival of rare and imperiled species. However, they are terms that can be difficult to define accurately, and they can be even harder to assign in any given case. RAEI is working on the front lines in the field to determine which species warrant these and other designations, and what we can do to bring their numbers back up so that they can someday be delisted.

saft gegen ├╝belkeit by Onfy

Fortunately, there is a fast-growing body of knowledge on the status of amphibians worldwide. Scientists in universities as well as organizations like ours have worked tirelessly to come up with a best estimate for the status of all 6,644 species of frogs, salamanders, and caecilians. That's the good news. The bad news is that nearly one third of all living species of amphibians are in danger of extinction, and about 170 are already believed to be extinct.

Our state of knowledge for the conservation status of reptiles is much less complete. Of the 8,734 species of known reptiles, only 1,437 have sufficient data to have been evaluated for conservation status. That leaves 83% of reptiles for which we lack sufficient data to know whether their populations are increasing, decreasing, or holding steady. Among the reptiles, the turtles and crocodilians are the best known; all 23 species of crocodiles and alligators have been evaluated, and about two-thirds of turtles and tortoises have.

For both reptiles and amphibians, even if we know what is happening to their populations, their fates are far from certain. In some cases, there is a distinct cause that can be addressed. For sea turtles, protecting their nesting beaches from egg harvesting has led to a reversal of population declines at many nesting sites. In many other cases, causes are complicated (see our amphibian declines page for examples). But the fact remains, we need to know much, much more to figure out both what is happening to our frogs, lizards, snakes, and turtles and then to determine what we can do about it.

Case Studies

The Pacific Lowland Treefrog, Dendropsophus gryllatus, is found in just a few localities in western Ecuador. It is listed as endangered due to its very limited geographic range as well as extreme habitat fragmentation. We recorded a new population of these frogs in 2008.

Dendropsophus gryllatus

The green sea turtle, Chelonia midas, is under threats from fishing and egg predation. Despite its global presence, it has been in decline throughout its range, and is listed as endangered.

chelonia midas

The New Mexico Ridge-nosed Rattlesnake, Crotalus willardi obscurus, ranges from the Northern Sierra Madres in Mexico into the border regions of Arizona and New Mexico in the United States. Its exceeding rarity in impacted habitats, as well as collecting pressure, has led to its being listed as endangered in the U.S.

Crotalus willardi obscurus

The gliding leaf frog, Agalychnis litodryas, is found in rare and fragmented habitats in western Ecuador, earning it a classification of vulnerable to extinction.

agalychnis spurelli

The Galapagos land iguana, Conolophus subcristatus, was nearly decimated by the introduction of goats to the Galapagos Islands, which severely degraded their habitat. Today it is classified as vulnerable to extinction, although goat eradication programs and a captive breeding program are giving the iguanas a second chance.

conolophus subcristatus

What we are doing. We are doing the on-the-ground work to find out which animals are in most need of protection, and should earn protected status. Furthermore, we endeavor to elucidate the causes for endangerment, so we can provide recommendations for saving animals and ecosystems.

What you can do. Keep informed! Use resources like this website and our Facebook page to keep up with the latest information. Check out our more detailed information on reptile and amphibian conservation.


Did you know . . .

Snakes like boas and rattlesnakes have heat sensing organs on their faces to detect warm-blooded prey.

Many salamanders have no lungs at all and rely on breathing completely through their skin.

Even though reptiles and amphibians are sometimes called "cold-blooded" they actually get heat from their surroundings and can be a lot warmer than so-called "warm-blooded" animals like mammals and birds.

The most toxic animal on earth, the golden poison frog, was once used to coat poison darts by indigenous peoples in what is now Colombia. A single frog holds enough toxin to kill 20,000 mice!

Toxin from a poison frog is now being used to develop a powerful new pain-reliever.

Gila monster venom was used to create perhaps the best treatment for diabetes that is available today.

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