We may not see every fifth species of reptiles anytime soon. This also applies to the Polish

No less than 21 percent in the world. species of reptiles are in danger of extinction – listed in a recent publication in “Nature”.

The phenomenon of the modern mass extinction of species has been studied for years. It was already known that almost 41 percent are threatened with extinction. amphibian species, more than 25 percent mammal species and nearly 14 percent. bird species. Until now, however, reptiles have been neglected and only now have they received a comprehensive risk assessment.


A recent publication in Nature shows that 1,829 of the 10,196 are threatened with extinction, or about 21%. reptile species. The worst is the case of crocodiles and turtles, which are 60 and 50 percent at risk, respectively. types. Fortunately, the publication shows that actions taken to protect other four-legged friends should also help save reptiles.

The authors analyzed the reasons for the extinction of representatives of this group of animals. Among them are man-made causes: habitat loss and fragmentation related to the intensification and expansion of agriculture, urban development and transport, deforestation, biological invasions and climate change. Hunting, trade and consumption also pose a threat to turtles and crocodiles.

When it comes to protecting the world’s reptiles, most species should be kept in warmer climates, especially in tropical forests or on islands (for example, in New Zealand, where species not found elsewhere have survived). Although the climate of Central Europe is not conducive to the abundance of reptiles, it is worth remembering which reptiles can still be found in our country.


dr. Katarzyna Kurek, a herpetologist (researcher of amphibians and reptiles) from the Institute of Nature Conservation of the Polish Academy of Sciences, asked for comment by the Science in Poland website, mentions that our country is home to ten species of reptiles, three of which are be considered endangered. There are five species of snakes in Poland: Aesculapian snake (critically endangered), smooth snake (near threatened), snake viper, grass snake and osprey grass snake. We also have four types of lizards: viviparous lizard, sand lizard, slow worm and colchid slow worm. As for turtles, only the European pond turtle (endangered species) occurs naturally in Poland.

The researcher says that among these Polish species there are two novelties: the osprey and the snail. The natural appearance of the osprey grass snake was observed in 2011 on the Olza River in Cieszyn Silesia. On the other hand, slowworms were distinguished as a separate species only in 2010 – as a result of genetic research (so we can say that such slowworms have been present in Poland for a long time, but they did not have a separate name).


In addition to native species, we also have species that have appeared in Poland thanks to man, such as ornamental turtles, especially the red-eared slider.

– These turtles were readily available, often bought as pets and released into water reservoirs across the country. These animals adapt easily to the new environment. Research is now underway on the reproduction of this species and its functioning in natural conditions – the researcher reports, adding that red-eared sliders are currently considered an invasive species.

– Since 2012, the keeping, breeding, reproduction and sale or purchase of this species is only possible after obtaining a permit from the competent regional director of environmental protection – he informs.


When it comes to activities on behalf of Polish reptiles, Dr. Kurek that some species need active protection, ie active measures that will facilitate their reproduction and survival. Meanwhile, as he emphasizes, many activities are carried out as part of short-term ad hoc projects, for example by non-governmental organizations under EU funds.

– Meanwhile, for effective protection, it is important that such activities are carried out in a stable and permanent manner – he judges.


Research is another important topic for conservation. Some of the activities performed so far are carried out “in the dark” – without any precise knowledge of their effectiveness. An example is culverts and animal passages created during highway construction. You can guess that they are used not only by amphibians and mammals, but also by reptiles – but it is still unknown to what extent. The effectiveness of activities such as releasing young pond turtles into the environment is also not fully known, and whether the released animals will be able to reproduce will sometimes only be known after several decades (turtles can live up to 100 years).

dr. Kurek emphasizes that education is also an important part of animal conservation, as reptiles unfortunately still cause irrational fear or disgust in some people. Therefore, the researcher praises projects carried out, for example, in the Bieszczady Mountains, which “warm up” the image of these animals and teach residents how to like the environment of Aesculapian snakes or grass snakes.

– If we understand that they are rare animals and completely harmless to humans, they will not be killed thoughtlessly – explains the researcher, adding that the presence of protected reptiles in the garden should be a reason to be proud.

THE Viper attack is often provoked

As for the viper, the only venomous reptile in Poland, Dr. Kurek that the fear of it is too great in relation to the real danger it can pose. As he explains, vipers usually run away in an emergency, and the bite is not dangerous for a healthy adult.

“Unfortunately, people are so afraid of her that they sometimes try to kill her.” No wonder an animal can bite for life in a struggle – he enumerates.


According to the researcher, since people are already afraid of vipers, and this is a partially protected species, Poland lacks services designated to remove these snakes away from human homes.

– If you knew who to call to quickly take care of the viper in the garden, perhaps there would be fewer cases of killing these animals – he thinks.

– Global extinction trends also apply to reptiles. This is an important group that also needs to be protected. Greater emphasis should be placed on educational activities, systematic conservation and research on reptiles – sums up Dr. Katarzyna Kurek together.


Currently, anyone can contribute to increasing the knowledge about amphibians and reptiles in our country by reporting information about their observations to the database of the Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles of Poland, created by the Institute of Nature Conservation. Data collected by volunteers helps scientists describe, recognize and protect the habitats of these endangered animals.

Nauka w Polsce / MarWer

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