Mediterranean Reptiles

There are 355 species of reptiles in 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.


Of the total number of reptile species found in the Mediterranean, 47 are currently threatened with extinction, and 13% of Mediterranean reptile species are globally threatened. 3.7% of the species were classified as Critically Endangered, 6.2% as Endangered, and 3.1% as Vulnerable. A total of 252 species were assessed as Least Concern, and 19 were considered to be Data Deficient. One species listed as Extinct was rediscovered recently in the Canary Islands, the giant lizard from La Palma Gallotia auaritae.  Furthermore, terrestrial tortoises are also regionally threatened in the Mediterranean; two of the five Testudo terrestrial tortoises being critically endangered. In Spain alone, five of the seven species of the lizard genus Iberolacerta, are threatened.

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Summary of conservation status of non-marine reptiles of the Mediterranean, 2008

Photo: IUCN

Species Richness

The eastern Mediterranean has a great diversity of reptile species (lizards, snakes, turtles, tortoises, and crocodilians) due to its characteristic arid lands. There are a few concentrations of species at risk, and the most notable are in 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. Another lesser concentration of threatened species occurs in northern Morocco and northeast Algeria.

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Species richness of threatened reptiles in the Mediterranean

Photo: IUCN


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 for some species. Many species, mainly snakes, are being persecuted, and vehicle collisions are having an impact on several snake and turtle species, but not usually at levels which would qualify them as globally threatened.

The results are presented in a report, prepared in partnership with Conservation International, and with the financial support of the Mava Foundation.

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The Desert Horned Viper (North Africa and Israel) Least Concern

Photo: Wolfgang Böhme