Two Rare Reptiles
With fuzzy creatures like spotted owls getting all the attention you barely ever hear about rare reptiles. Yet our cold-blooded relatives are also in danger just like some of our feathered friends. In fact, because there is little sympathy for creatures like crocodiles and snakes, you could arguably say that they are in greater danger because they have few human defenders.
So let’s examine some of the rare reptiles that still hold on despite the host of problems against them.
The Dwarf crocodile is one of the creatures that are on the Endangered Species List—like virtually all the species of crocodile. The Dwarf crocodile calls Central and Western Africa home, and its one saving grace—the lucky evolutionary turn that has allowed it to survive to this point—is that it is nocturnal. If it hunted during the day, it would perhaps not be so lucky. This is because for a long time crocodile hunting was a sport for those Europeans on safari. Furthermore, as governments began to take over African lands they started to impose bounties on crocodiles in an effort to keep them from eating cattle or locals. These policies have had their effect.
Now, however, the dwarf crocodile’s most dangerous enemy is habitat loss. As the countries of Central and West Africa try to modernize, they are quickly encroaching on the Dwarf crocodile’s natural home. It remains to be seen whether the Dwarf croc will be able to survive this latest threat.
Fiji Crested Iguana
Many of the rare reptiles are iguanas. One of the ones with the most compelling story is the Fiji Crested Iguana. Scientists have only been able to spot this green iguana on three Fijian islands in the Pacific. (Just a few years ago, it had been present in a dozen islands but habitat loss has virtually decimated its population. One of the problems for the Fiji Crested Iguana is that it needs dry Pacific forest in order to survive. Since most islands have tropical forests, this condition has become increasingly difficult to meet.
One of the amazing characteristics of this species is its behavior when another creature threatens it. The Fiji Iguana plays an intense game of bluff in which it changes from its normal bright green to black, hisses at its attacker, and then turns on the attacker if they are going to brawl. The behavior was surprisingly effective for a long while.
Some of the usual problems, however, plague the Fiji Iguana. One of the major threats is encroachment by farmlands. Another has to do with unintended consequences of this encroachment. The introduction of mountain goats, for example, to one of the islands where the Fiji Crested Iguana had long lived has proven disastrous for the iguana population on the island. The mountain goats had a destructive effect on the iguana’s habitat. The government of Fiji, however, in an effort to preserve the iguana species has removed the goats. Human involvement has also introduced other species, like cats to islands where the iguana lives and these new predators have had a damaging effect on the iguana population as well.
These are just two of the many rare reptiles that face challenges as countries continue to try to develop and as human encroachment continues to reduce their populations. The good news is that many governments are beginning to see the positive rewards of doing the right thing by protecting these disappearing species. If however, these species are to survive everyone will have to do their part in being better caretakers of our planet. That means that citizens like you and me will have to hold our own governments accountable and convince our neighbors that habitat preservation is an important value.