Many among us are not too thrilled at the thought of snakes or any of the other members of the reptile family. Perhaps because they look so alien, almost like dinosaurs, compared to most other species? Either way they fill an important role on our planet. Therefore it is a huge problem almost half of all reptiles are endangered. We’ve listed 15 of the most endangered reptiles for you to read up on.
The role reptiles play in the grand scheme of things is often overlooked. Nature has created all the species in the world with a unique purpose. When grouped together, the species interact to form the ‘ecological balance.’
In a nutshell, every living being cooperates in maintaining balance on earth.
Snakes for example, might give you the creeps but are in reality the ones protecting you from countless of harmful pests that may cause you even greater torment.
Decline In Reptile Populations
Despite the role these precious little critters play in our lives, human activities have always led to a decline in the reptile populations, leading their species to the brink of extinction.
Currently, around 40% of the world’s total reptile species are labeled as endangered on the Red List of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Illegal poaching, destruction of habitats, climate change, and increasing predation has led to a decline in the world’s population of reptiles.
The Top 15 Most Endangered Reptiles On Earth
The most critically endangered reptiles are the turtles, with more than 60% of their population on the brink of extinction. Moreover, the crocodile population is second to the turtles, as 50% of their species are close to vanishing from our planet.
Therefore, we should educate ourselves on what species are on the verge of extinction and what measures are needed to conserve these wild creatures.
So, without further ado, let’s get down to know them!
#1 Madagascar Big-Headed Turtle
The Madagascar big-headed turtle, native to the lakes and rivers in western Madagascar, is enlisted among the top most endangered species of turtles.
Although already low in population, people still hunt them for food and medicine in Asian markets.
As the name implies, the Madagascar big-headed turtle has a massive head in relation to its body. A beautiful pattern covers their thick shell that shields its large head and body against potential harm.
The almost-extinct species is fond of eating plants and dead organic matter, such as dead animals. As astonishing as it sounds, this turtle breed dates back 80 million years when dinosaurs ruled the planet.
However, these poor creatures have to suffer big time when it comes to our increasing involvement in marine life. The exploitation of land and habitats of these species has led to a decline in their total population.
#2 Cuban Crocodile
The small species of Cuban Crocodile is native to the freshwater rivers and marshes of Cuba. Despite being small, the species is highly aggressive and exceptionally dangerous to human beings.
The Cuban Crocodile stands out from the rest of the crocodile genus due to its ultra-strong, long legs, bright-coloured skin, and highly rough texture. However, the intricate skin pattern has led to excessive hunting by humans, leading to a decline in their population.
This crocodile species is exceptionally talented when it comes to hunting and predation. The high cooperation between their memory and intelligence makes them hard to escape from when they hunt in groups.
The danger these crocodiles pose has led to an increase in their hunting by humans, leading to a decline in their already minute population. Thus, the IUCN deems them critically endangered.
#3 Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle
The Atlantic Ridley Sea Turtle, also called the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle, is the smallest and an exceptionally rare species of sea turtle alive today.
Kemp’s Ridleys typically live in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. These triangular-headed species usually have a gray-green-toned shell that results from them changing colors as they attain maturity. Initially, the hatchlings are dark-purple in color.
The females nest in large groups on the seashores during the day in order to defend against potential threats.
By the advent of the 20th century, the female Kemp’s ridleys nested abundantly on the Gulf of Mexico. However, by the mid-20th century, the number started to decline due to them being a bycatch of fishing.
Moreover, increased turtle harvesting on the seashores, as well as the destruction of their nesting grounds, contribute to a decline in their population.
#4 Radiated Tortoise
A radiated tortoise, endemic to southern Madagascar, is a high-domed tortoise with feet resembling an elephant’s. It has a distinctive black mark on its head and a yellow body.
The carapace of this tortoise has an intricate pattern. It consists of vibrant yellow lines emerging from the plates on its shell, almost mimicking radiation emissions, thus giving the tortoise its name.
Their diet is herbivorous. Typically they are fond of grazing on wild vegetation, delicious fruits and fleshy plants.
Despite being a species with a considerably long lifespan of up to 188 years, the radiated tortoise population has severely declined. This is mainly due to illegal hunting and destruction of their dry forest habitats.
Moreover, a sad reality is that people living below the poverty line are so food-deprived that they hunt such species for food and survival.
Therefore, radiated tortoises are a critically endangered species according to the IUCN.
#5 Culebra Island Giant Anole
The Virgin Islands Giant Anole is the rarest species of lizard and a ‘possibly extinct’ reptile, as per the IUCN. The giant anole, native to the Virgin Islands, is also present on Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.
The huge anole can grow up to 6 inches long, with two long lines protruding on both sides of its body. Its color is a blend of gray-brown hues, with a white-colored underside and a unique spot on its temple. The tail of a male giant anole may incorporate fin-like structures all over its length.
The main areas of residence for a giant anole are trees, and their primary source of diet includes tiny insects, lizards, and fruits. Unfortunately, an increase in urbanization caused the loss of their habitat and food reserves, resulting in a decline in their population.
Astonishingly, no scientist has ever seen a giant anole since 1932. The anoles were officially declared endangered in 1977. Due to a lack of concern by the conservation departments, their population has continued to decline – almost reaching extinction.
If lizards tickle your fancy, read about other endangered lizard species here.
#6 Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle
The snake-necked turtle, also known as McCord’s snakeneck turtle, is endemic to the Rote Island of Indonesia. The IUCN deems them critically endangered reptiles.
The evolution period of snake-necked turtles dates back to 70 million years ago when the dinosaurs ruled the world. That’s how long the legacy of snake-necks has evolved.
Their distinguishing long necks are what gives them their name. In fact, their necks are so long that they are unable to tuck them completely inside their shell. Instead, they have to tilt it sideways and hide in case of a threat.
The McCord’s turtles have a deep brown carapace with black irises surrounded by a distinctive white ring. Their appearance is so unique that they are hunted excessively for the pet trade, leading to a decline in their population.
Unmonitored harvesting of this species has caused irreparable damage to their communities, making them officially extinct in the pet trading markets. Moreover, a loss in their habitats and hunting by feral pigs has led to their population decline.
Gharials, also known as gavials, belong to the family of longest-living crocodiles endemic to the northern Indian subcontinent. Their thin and long snouts distinguish them from other crocodile species.
Adult male gharials have a pot-like projection at the end of their snouts, resembling a ‘ghara’ (an earthenware pot), hence getting the name ‘gharial.’ In fact, it is the only species of reptiles with such a visible difference between their males and females.
Gharials cannot survive in places other than freshwater bodies and feed on small river fish they catch through their long, thin jaws. They cannot survive on land and only come out of the water for sunbathing.
However, their existence is under a big threat due to human activities. Their once huge population ranging from Pakistan to Myanmar is now restricted to only a few areas of India and Nepal.
Construction of dams on the rivers they live in leads to habitat loss. They are unable to search for other water channels and therefore die as a result.
Overfishing in the rivers leads to a decrease in food availability. Moreover, illegal hunting by humans for their ghara, penis, and skin, leads to them being labeled as critically endangered.
#8 Golden Coin Turtle
The Chinese three-striped box turtle is native to the southern part of China and is enlisted as a critically endangered species of turtle by IUCN.
The three black stripes on its carapace, coupled with a hooked jaw and a yellow stripe on the mouth, make it a rather attractive turtle species due to its unique appearance.
The golden coin turtles feed on small animals like fish, frogs, insects, and even crabs. However, the turtles possess cancer-curing properties, making them a valuable asset for Chinese medicinal companies. Due to these medicinal benefits humans continuously hunt them, leading to a considerable decline in their population.
The illegal hunting and destruction of their habitats make them not only one of the top 25 most endangered turtles, but also one of the most endangered reptiles worldwide.
#9 Slender-Snouted Crocodile
The West African slender-snouted crocodile is one of five species of crocodile present on the African continent. Unfortunately, their population is declining at a drastic rate, making them extremely rare.
According to an estimation, fewer than 500 slender-snouted crocodiles exist amongst African wildlife, making them a critically endangered species in the world, according to IUCN.
The narrow snout, coupled with tiny teeth, aids them in catching small prey, such as fish, in freshwater rivers. Their patterned skin in olive green and brown hues makes them an attractive species.
The slender-snouted crocodiles are usually found in dense forests covered with vegetation and freshwater bodies like rivers. They prefer this habitat because they are shy and live in hiding for most of their lives.
It is a sad reality that such species are on the verge of vanishing from the face of the earth due to human activities.
#10 William’s Dwarf Gecko
The turquoise dwarf gecko is native to a small region in Tanzania. It is regarded as one of the most critically endangered species amongst the family of lizards.
Their attractive appearance accounts for them being hunted for the pet trade, leading to a decline in their population. The male species have an electric blue appearance with black stripes on their throat.
The females may vary from brown to bright green hues with little to no stripes on their throats. However, the underside of both sexes is bright orange.
Fun fact: The color of these species varies according to their mood and the temperature of their surroundings.
The population of these colorful species is decreasing drastically due to illegal pet trading. Besides, captive breeding for these reptiles is difficult because the young geckos require extreme care and attention.
Therefore, conserving their population is a rather daunting task, making their extinction highly probable.
#11 Santa Catalina Rattlesnake
The Santa Catalina rattlesnake belongs to the venomous snake family of pit vipers native to the Gulf of California. This critically endangered species is on the verge of extinction due to excessive hunting by the feral cats living near their habitats.
A distinctive feature of this snake is that it lacks a rattle despite being part of the rattlesnake family. After every period of skin shedding, the rattle sheds off instead of forming a new segment of its tips.
The appearance of these species may vary according to their color. Some species come with a pattern of black bands on their tail and a light cream-colored base, with brown blemishes down their backs. The other variants come in a much lighter tone with dark gray blemishes down their back.
However, they have been hunted down by their main predators, the feral cats, and are now classified as an endangered species.
#12 Spider Tortoise
The spider tortoise is an attractive species of the tortoise family native to the sandy coastal areas of Madagascar. Their tiny and charismatic shell makes them adorable reptiles. However, their captivating appearance is what has led to a decline in their population.
Human beings are hunting the spider tortoise for the pet trade due to their cute appearance. Moreover, they are being killed by humans for food and liver trade to Asia. Besides, the permanent destruction of their habitat contributes to a significant factor in their population decline.
The carapace of the spider tortoise has a continuous pattern of yellow web-like structures with a dark base color, giving the impression of a spider web. The species usually feeds on plant matter and insects, and even the feces of cows infested with insect larvae.
#13 Madagascar Blind Snake
The Madagascar blind snake is a rather adorable worm-like snake that comes in a bright pink-hued body and is deprived of its ability to see.
The blind snake has a rather big head that helps it dig its way out through the sand. Moreover, the species resembles an earthworm rather than a snake.
Their primary habitats are deep burrows beneath the layer of rocks and sand. These shy species prefer to stay in hiding for most of their lives.
The lack of eyesight is no hindrance to their living mechanisms since their sense of smell and heat absorption aids them in finding and hunting their prey, such as larvae and insects.
Unfortunately, urbanization in the forested areas of Madagascar has led to the destruction of their habitats and rendered the species on the brink of extinction.
#14 Three-Banded Centipede Snake
The ringed centipede snake is an attractive species native to Guanaja Island in Honduras. Their smoothly-scaled skin, bulbous round head, tiny eyes, and vibrant red base color make them a fascinating wild species, resembling the family of venomous coral snakes.
These snakes are extremely rare and are occasionally found on evergreen forest beds, usually hiding behind rocks or logs or buried under debris. They are quick-witted and hunt their prey actively. The only way they protect themselves from potential predators is by digging deep into the soil and hiding.
However, an increase in deforestation has led to their habitat loss since there are no more trees, diminishing their already rare population. Therefore, the species is labeled as endangered and, without conservation measures, may become extinct.
#15 Namoroka Leaf Chameleon
Belonging to the world’s tiniest reptiles, the Namoroka Leaf Chameleon is found in the dry forest beds of Madagascar. Their brown-colored bodies provide them with excellent camouflage against potential predators as they blend in with their surroundings quite efficiently.
An exciting mechanism of these species is to act dead whenever they are disturbed. They fall off to resemble a dried leaf and successfully remove any attention from them.
However, these reptiles are listed as critically endangered species due to the introduction of livestock grazing in their habitats. The destruction of their dwellings has led to their population decline, and without conservation measures, they may vanish any day from the face of this planet.
The Final Word
The world is no longer safe for any wild species, be it a massive mammal or a tiny insect. The reptiles are under a constant threat of extinction, partially because of nature’s phenomena but mainly due to human activities. As much as 40% of reptile species are endangered.
Therefore, being responsible inhabitants of the earth, we must look after every living being that plays a part in the ecological balance on earth. In the case of these reptiles, it is our duty to avoid hunting them for our own benefit and let their population multiply before they vanish entirely.
Thank you for reading up on the most endangered reptiles! If you want to delve further into the reptile kingdom you should read about the Top Ten Deadliest Snakes in the World.