Pollution, Disease and Ongoing Habitat Loss Push Many Toward Extinction
A new report by the Center for Biological Diversity today identifies the nation’s top 10 amphibians and reptiles in need of immediate federal protection to stave off extinction. The list includes a yellow-legged frog from California’s high Sierras, a 2-foot-long eastern salamander and a colorful northeastern turtle.
The report, Dying for Protection: The 10 Most Vulnerable, Least Protected Amphibians and Reptiles in the United States, details the population declines and ongoing threats that have left once-common species like the western pond turtle and boreal toad spiraling toward extinction.
“These increasingly rare frogs, salamanders and turtles are on the fast track toward extinction if we don’t step up and rescue them,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Center lawyer and biologist who specializes in conserving amphibians and reptiles. “And it’s not just about protecting these irreplaceable amphibians and reptiles; it’s about protecting the health of the priceless environment we share with them.”
Some of the species included in the report have lost more than 90 percent of their habitat and, without Endangered Species Act protection, many will continue to decline due to fragmentation of their declining populations, pesticide pollution, killer diseases and over-collection. Scientists now estimate that 1 in 4 of the nation’s amphibians and reptiles are at risk of extinction, yet they make up only 61 of the approximately 1,400 U.S. species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Last year the Center and several internationally renowned conservation scientists, including E.O. Wilson and Thomas Lovejoy, filed a petition seeking Endangered Species Act protection for 53 of the nation’s most threatened species of amphibians and reptiles. In 2011 the Center signed a landmark settlement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is speeding protection decisions for 757 species, including dozens of amphibians and reptiles. The 10 species included in the report are among the neediest of the many reptiles and amphibians still waiting for the lifesaving protection of the Act, which over the past 40 years has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the plants and animals entrusted to its care.
However, amphibians and reptiles continue to disappear at an alarming rate.
“Frogs, turtles and salamanders are some of nature’s most delightful and fascinating creatures,” said Adkins Giese. “They also help control populations of insects and rodents and in some cases even provide cures for diseases. We can and should help them avoid an extinction crisis.”
Learn more about the amphibian and reptile extinction crisis here.