Conservation group wants Endangered Species Act protection for reptiles and amphibians

07/20/12 Olivia Kabat
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Earlier this month the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to receive Endangered Species Act protection for rare amphibians and reptiles. The goal of this petition is to save 53 species across the country, 10 of which live in Florida.

Collette Giese is an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity who specializes in reptiles and amphibians. She says species like the Florida Scrub Lizard and the Apalachicola King Snake can only be saved if they’re protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“Well we’re confident that the vast majority of these will someday receive protection. They all deserve it now. It really is a situation where we just need to wait though because there are so many species across the country that do need protection under the Endangered Species Act but just don’t currently receive it.”

The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that about 25% of reptiles and amphibians in the US are at risk of extinction. Giese says some of the species needing protection have lost more than 95% of their natural habitat.

“The primary reason is loss of habitat either destruction of habitat or urban development, forestry, agriculture. A lot of other species are affected by things like over collection for the pet-trade, disease, climate change, there really are many different things that can affect a species.”

Scientists at the center composed a 450-page petition outlining threats to the species and the urgent need for protection. Henry Mushinsky, Professor of Biology at USF, says the biggest threat to vulnerable species is obvious.

“Humans, it’s a simple answer. There are just too many humans. Ultimately all of the species that are being listed or have been listed it’s because of their interactions with humans. You can go as far back as you want, if you look at the growth of the human population and the impact of humans of everything not just wildlife but on water quality, air quality, all those kinds of things; they all effect different species in different ways.”

Mushinsky says scientists can collect information and start a petition but ultimately it’s the federal government that gets involved in listing the species.

“Usually the data is accumulated over years. It’s not something you do at a one shot deal. I’ll give you a personal example; I’ve been working on gopher tortoises for 30 years. We’ve documented a tremendous reduction in population sizes and all those kinds of things and they are a candidate for listing.”

Amphibian and Reptile Crisis - Center for Biological Diversity

Endangered Species - Center for Biological Diversity

Petition - Center for Biological Diversity

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