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

Hayley M. Geyle, Reid Tingley, Andrew P. Amey, Hal Cogger, Patrick J. Couper, Mark Cowan, Michael D. Craig, Paul Doughty, Don A. Driscoll, Ryan J. Ellis, Jon Paul Emery, Aaron Fenner, Michael G. Gardner, Stephen T. Garnett, Graeme R. Gillespie, Matthew J. Greenlees, Conrad J. Hoskin, J. Scott Keogh, Ray Lloyd, Jane MelvillePeter J. McDonald, Damian R. Michael, Nicola J. Mitchell, Chris Sanderson, Glenn M. Shea, Joanna Sumner, Erik Wapstra, John C.Z. Woinarski, David G. Chapple

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Australia hosts approximately 10% of the world's reptile species, the largest number of any country. 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, and 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. The 20 most imperilled species are all restricted in range, with three 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 imperilled terrestrial reptiles.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-12
    Number of pages10
    JournalPacific Conservation Biology
    Issue number1
    Early online date3 Sept 2020
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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