Komodo dragon in danger of extinction as sea level rises | The threatened species

The Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard, is threatened with extinction as rising sea levels from the climate crisis reduce its habitat, according to the latest “red list” update.

Endemic to a handful of Indonesian islands, the Komodo dragon lives on the edge of forests or in open savannah, rarely venturing above 700 meters above sea level. Rising sea levels are expected to affect 30% of its habitat over the next 45 years, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has changed its status from vulnerable to endangered.

The update – announced at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille – is the first for the Komodo dragon in more than 20 years. It comes after the first peer reviewed article on how global warming would affect giant lizards concluded that “urgent conservation actions are needed to avoid the risk of extinction.”

In addition to being unable to move to higher lands, the habitat of Komodo dragons is increasingly fragmented by human activity, making populations less genetically healthy and more vulnerable. Their range on the island of Flores, in south-eastern Indonesia, is said to have declined by more than 40% between 1970 and 2000.

A rare image of Komodo dragons fighting in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. Photograph: Andrey Gudkov / Getty Images

“Due to human pressure, the forest is slowly being cut down and disappearing, and the savannah is affected by fires and degradation. That’s why animals are really in little pockets, ”said Gerardo Garcia, curator of vertebrates and invertebrates at Chester Zoo. “Habitats are even smaller due to rising sea levels.”

Europeans only discovered Komodo dragons at the beginning of the 20th century and were immediately fascinated by the creatures. Growing up to 3 meters in length and weighing over 150 kg, komodos feed primarily on forest pigs, deer, buffalo and fruit bats that hang in lowland mangroves. When they attack, their poisonous saliva suddenly lowers their prey’s blood pressure and prevents them from clotting, putting them into shock. Despite their bloody credentials, we still know little about them because they are so shy.


“It’s the most charismatic reptile on the planet but until last year we didn’t really know where the komodos lived,” said Garcia, who was part of a three-year project with the NGO. Indonesian.Komodo Survival Program this involved using camera traps to determine their movements. They found out where they lived in Flores and now hope to do more targeted conservation and community work in these areas. The Komodo National Park subpopulation is currently stable and protected.

Out of 138,000 species on the updated IUCN Red List, more than 38,000 are threatened with extinction. The organization has also included a comprehensive reassessment of shark and ray species, 37% of which are now threatened with extinction due to overfishing, habitat loss and the climate crisis. Sharks and rays are also plagued by bad luck with their biology – they reproduce slowly and in small numbers, which means they are slower to rebound compared to other species.

The IUCN Red List update had good news: four of the seven commercially caught tuna species – Atlantic bluefin tuna, southern bluefin tuna, albacore and yellowfin tuna – are on the list. recovery path, through the introduction of fishing quotas over the past 10 years.

“The new ratings are certainly good news,” said Grantly Galland of the Pew Charitable Trusts. “Management has improved for bluefin tuna and albacore globally over the past decade, but we still exercise caution as IUCN assessments are based on whole species and do not allow not for the evaluation team to examine genetically distinct populations. “

For example, the Atlantic bluefin tuna is of least concern, but the western Atlantic population continues to experience severe declines and still threatens to disappear entirely.

The success of albacore and southern bluefin tuna is due to the introduction of “Harvest strategies” where managers determine in advance what rules or actions they will take based on the state of the action, and these new ratings are proof that these strategies are working.

Galland said: “When fisheries managers focus on a particular problem and put effort into solving it, they are able to do so, including reducing fishing quotas when stakeholders do not want them to be. reduced. It shows that when we make those tough decisions and focus on recovery, we can actually get there. “

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