Scientists name 20 snakes and lizards on path to extinction

Scientists name 20 snakes and lizards on path to extinction

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The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko from Queensland is at risk. Photo: Conrad Hoskin

The Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko from Queensland is at risk. Photo: Conrad Hoskin

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THEY may not be cute or cuddly, but these Aussie animals need our help before it's too late.

Aa

THEY may not be cute or cuddly, but these Aussie animals need our help before it's too late.

New research from the Threatened Species Recovery Hub highlights 11 species of snakes and lizards are likely to become extinct by 2040 unless there is a stepping up of conservation action, and identifies the 20 snakes and lizards at most risk of extinction.

The research team included 27 reptile specialists from universities, government agencies, zoos and museums across the country.

Species on the list include the Arnhem Land Gorges Skink, the Lake Disappointment Ground Gecko, the Cape Melville Leaf-Tailed Gecko, the Roma Earless Dragon, the Mount Surprise Slider and the Christmas Island Forest Gecko.

Western Australia has three species on the list, two are from Christmas Island, and the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, Victoria and New South Wales each have one species.

Lead author, Charles Darwin University researcher Hayley Geyle, said the conservation of Australian reptiles has received a lot less attention than birds or mammals, but this needs to change if we are to prevent extinctions.

"This research helps to prevent extinctions. By identifying the species at most risk we aim to give governments, conservation groups and the community time to implement emergency conservation actions before it is too late," Ms Geyle said.

"Invasive plant and animal species are the most common threats to imperilled snakes and lizards, followed by agriculture, altered fire regimes and climate change.

"Although most of the species we identified were historically more widespread, each now occurs in a relatively small area. This makes them vulnerable to extinctions caused by single catastrophic events, such as a large fire."

Co-author John Woinsarski from Charles Darwin University said the recent bushfires had also contributed to the increase in risk.

"At least 23 Australian reptile species were substantially affected by the 2019-20 bushfires, including five considered in this study," Prof Woinarski said.

"It is still too early to determine the short- and long-term impacts of the fires for individual species, but it has probably pushed some closer to extinction."

The study is part of a broader project by the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Program to identify the Australian plants and animals at most risk of extinction.

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