Reptile Conservation


Reptile conservation typically involves protecting habitat, educating citizens, and working with land owners to preserve or restore habitat. In general, anthropogenic factors increasing extinction risk in reptiles most often include hunting (including commercial harvest and trade), habitat loss and destruction, and invasive species.


Management actions may include restoring or maintaining’reptile hot-spots’ and corridors between important habitat features. This can include rock outcrops or talus that provide complex refugia for lizards and snakes; rocky pond edges that provide basking sites and antipredation refuges; and riparian buffers to maintain favourable water conditions for turtles.


Reptiles are a diverse group of vertebrates that include turtles, crocodiles, lizards (including snakes) and tuatara. Their unique adaptations have allowed them to adapt to a wide range of habitat types and climates, making them important contributors to biodiversity.

Despite this, the world’s reptile populations are facing significant challenges and many species are in decline or have already been lost. The majority of anthropogenic factors driving reptile extinction risk are habitat destruction and fragmentation due to agriculture expansion, urban development, logging and invasive species, and hunting for local consumption and international trade.

In particular, threats that lead to complete habitat loss (i.e., habitat destruction) affect proportionately more reptiles than those that cause habitat change (degradation of habitat). This is particularly true for lizards and crocodiles, but also to a lesser degree for snakes. Similarly, threats that cause fatal infections have a significant impact on a number of reptile species (i.e., diseases such as Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola).

Climate change is also a major threat to reptiles, with evidence that it can reduce thermally viable windows for foraging17 and lead to skewing of offspring sex ratios in species with temperature-dependent sex determination18. However, given the three-generation horizon for Red List assessments, there is little data available on the effects of climate change on reptiles and it is difficult to quantify its impacts.

Habitat Loss

Reptiles have long been neglected by conservation efforts, with 게코도마뱀 their distributions and extinction risks being poorly understood. A global assessment of more than 10,000 reptile species in a new study in Nature shows that 21% need urgent support to avoid extinction. This compares to a similar figure for amphibians and mammals, suggesting that we are missing important biodiversity information about reptiles.

Habitat loss is a major cause of extinction risk for reptiles, with most species occurring in forested habitats where they are vulnerable to forest clearing and agricultural land conversion. Many arid habitats also support large numbers of threatened reptiles, with forestry and desert-dwelling species often at risk because they have less adaptability to climate change.

The diversity of habitats where reptiles live is a key part of their success as they are able to utilise a range of different habitat types. However, the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events threatens reptiles, particularly where temperatures are changing rapidly. For example, higher temperatures reduce the window of time available to reptiles for daily foraging and may cause male turtles to produce fewer eggs.

The results of the new study reveal that conservation actions to conserve other tetrapods, including birds, mammals and amphibians, are likely to benefit most reptiles too. For example, conserving forests for other species will help protect and improve habitat for lizards and snakes, which are commonly hunted by people.

Human Interactions

Across the globe, people kill both venomous and non-venomous reptiles (e.g., Bernis et al., 2018). This is not only a tragedy for the targeted reptiles, but it also limits opportunities to study how humans interact with wildlife and impacts conservation efforts (e.g., in Yosemite National Park, where the recovery of the federally endangered mountain yellow-legged frog relies on human behavior).

Research shows that people associate snakes with danger and fear. Neighborhoods with higher numbers of snake removals also have stronger pro-ecological worldviews, suggesting that community businesses focusing on snake removal can serve as effective partners for reptile conservation. Further research is needed to unpack motivations for snake removals and identify ways to increase their positive impact on wildlife.

Reptiles are often overlooked in global conservation planning, with the majority of their ranges outside formally protected areas. Nevertheless, the threat status of reptiles is comparable to birds, mammals and amphibians, and their ranges often overlap with high-risk areas, making them key to conservation strategies for other species.

Fortunately, global biodiversity trends suggest that conservation efforts for other species may have contributed to a more stable distribution of reptiles. However, a comprehensive extinction-risk assessment for reptiles is needed to determine if this trend is sustainable. This will require additional conservation investments and new models for assessing the impact of interventions on rare or threatened reptiles.


Reptiles are susceptible to a wide range of diseases. These include bacterial, protozoal (single-celled organisms) and parasitic infections. One of the most serious is caused by Entamoeba invadens, a disease that causes loss of appetite and weight, vomiting and mucus-containing or bloody diarrhea. Plant-eating reptiles are less likely to become affected but can serve as carriers. The disease spreads rapidly in large snake collections and can kill them.

Respiratory infections are common in captive reptiles and can be life-threatening. These are caused by bacterial and/or parasitic infections, unfavorable environmental temperatures, septicemia (widespread infection in the bloodstream), malnutrition or vitamin A deficiency, stress, or other conditions. Signs may be open-mouth breathing, nose bleeds, or a wet, muddy appearance of the skin.

Other problems include prolapsed organs such as the cloaca, colon, oviduct, or phallus/hemipenes (if present) that protrude through the vent opening. This is most common in snakes but can be seen in turtles and lizards. These can be painful for the reptile and your veterinarian will gently clean and try to replace the organ.

Kidney disorders are also common in reptiles. A particular problem is secondary renal hyperparathyroidism, which is associated with high levels of phosphate and low levels of calcium in the blood and tissues. The condition is more common in reptiles that spend a lot of time soaking in water and/or eating fish and may be exacerbated by poor husbandry practices.