Rare Caribbean lizards near extinction

LizardSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that seven species of Caribbean skinks or lizards may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.
The rare lizards from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are on the knife’s edge of extinction due to introduced predators and habitat destruction.
“The Endangered Species Act can save these skinks,” said Collette Adkins, a centre biologist and lawyer who works to protect reptiles and amphibians.
“We can best deal with the habitat loss and invasive predators that threaten to wipe out these skinks by getting them protected under the act. This announcement means they’re one step closer to getting the protections they need.”
The lizards, along with several others were first identified by scientists in a 2012 study.
The scientists initiated their study after finding unusually large genetic differences among populations of skinks on different islands in the Caribbean.
The report says all of the newly identified endemic Caribbean links are near extinction (or already extinct) due to introduced predators like mongooses and cats, as well as large-scale habitat destruction for development and agriculture.
“The Caribbean is home to extremely rare animals found nowhere else in the world but too many are threatened with extinction,” said Dr. Blair Hedges of Temple University, lead author of the 2012 study that first recognized the lizards.
Although reptiles have been around for hundreds of millions of years and survived every major extinction period, now, due largely to human impacts, they’re dying off at up to 10,000 times the historic extinction rate. About 20% of reptiles in the world are endangered or susceptible to extinction.