Reptiles on the brink: Identifying the Australian terrestrial snake and lizard species most at risk of extinction

Hayley M. Geyle, Reid Tingley, Andrew Amey, Hal Cogger, Patrick Couper, Mark Cowan, Michael Craig, Paul Doughty, Don Driscoll, Ryan Ellis, Jon-Paul Emery, Aaron Fenner, Mike Gardner, Stephen Garnett, Graeme Gillespie, Matthew Greenless, Conrad Hoskin, Scott Keogh, Ray Lloyd, Jane MelvillePeter McDonald, Damian Michael, Nicola Mitchell, Chris Sanderson, Glenn Shea, Joanna Sumner, Eric Wapstra, John Woinarski, David Chapple

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)
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    Australia hosts about 10% of the world’s reptile species, the largest number of any country globally. However, despite this and evidence of widespread decline, the first comprehensive assessment of the conservation status of Australian terrestrial squamates (snakes and lizards) was undertaken only recently. Here we apply structured expert elicitation to the 60 species assessed to be in the highest IUCN threat categories to estimate their probability of extinction by 2040. We also assessed the probability of successful reintroduction for two Extinct in the Wild (EW) Christmas Island species with trial reintroductions underway. Collation and analysis of expert opinion indicated that six species are at high risk (>50%) of becoming extinct within the next 20 years. Based on the summed likelihoods of the probability of extinction for all taxa, up to 11 species could be lost within this timeframe unless management improves. The consensus among experts was that neither of the EW species were likely to persist outside of small fenced areas without a significant increase in resources for intense threat management. Mapped distributions of the 20 most imperilled species revealed that all are restricted in range, with three species occurring only on islands. The others are endemic to a single state, with 55% occurring in Queensland. Invasive species (notably weeds and introduced predators) were the most prevalent threats, followed by agriculture, natural system modifications (primarily fire) and climate change. Increased resourcing and management intervention are urgently needed to avert the impending extinction of Australia’s most imperilled terrestrial squamates.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-12
    Number of pages10
    JournalPacific Conservation Biology
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 03 Sept 2020


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