Of the total of reptile species found in the Mediterranean, 47 (13%) are currently threatened with extinction; about 4% are classified as Critically Endangered, 6.2% as Endangered, and 3.1% as Vulnerable. One species considered to be Extinct was thought to be spotted recently in the Canary Islands, the giant lizard from La Palma Gallotia auaritae.
There are 355 species of reptiles within the Mediterranean region (excluding marine turtles), a species richness higher than in central and northern Europe. Most of them are snakes (30%) or lizards (67%), although the group of reptiles also includes crocodiles and tortoises. The arid and semi-arid habitats found in the Mediterranean region are an ideal habitat for these reptiles, and almost half (48%) of the region’s species (170 in total) are endemic.
Summary of conservation status of non-marine reptiles of the Mediterranean, 2008
The eastern Mediterranean region has a great diversity of reptile species due to its characteristic arid lands. There are a few areas where concentrations of species at risk can be found; the most notable are Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, extending to the northern part of Sinai in northeast Egypt. Species of particular concern in this region include Testudo werneri, Cyrtopdion amictopholis, Acanthodactylus beershebensis, Lacerta fraasii, L. kulzeri and Montivipera bornmuelleri.
Species richness of threatened reptiles in the Mediterranean
Habitat loss and degradation are having by far the largest impact on both threatened and non-threatened species. Over-exploitation is the next biggest impact. Human disturbance, pollution and invasive alien species are also significant threats. Many species, especially snakes, are persecuted, and vehicle collision is causing mortality in several snake and turtle species, though not at levels which would qualify them as globally threatened.
The results are detailed in the report: "The Status and Distribution of Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mediterranean Basin" (eds. N. Cox, J. Chanson and S. Stuart), prepared in partnership with Conservation International and with the financial support of the Mava Foundation.
The Desert Horned Viper (North Africa and Israel) Least Concern
Photo: Wolfgang Böhme