Reptile Conservation Educators

Reptiles are some of Earth’s most imperiled species. Herpetofauna are particularly impacted by invasive species, habitat destruction and the illegal wildlife trade.


Climate change is a looming threat to reptiles by reducing thermally viable windows for foraging18 and skewing offspring sex ratios in species with temperature-dependent sex determination19. Species in tropical biomes are also declining rapidly and disproportionately20.

Habitat Protection

Reptiles require large areas of natural habitat, including wetlands, forests, deserts, and other open spaces, in order to survive. While some small species may be able to persist for decades on only a few acres of land, larger herpetological groups, particularly those that occupy the top levels of food chains, often need thousands of acres to maintain viable populations. The most effective means of protecting reptiles is to conserve the land they depend on, which can be done through the establishment of conservation and protection zones.

Despite their diversity, the majority of reptiles are threatened by the same major factors that threaten other tetrapods. Like other vertebrate groups, agriculture, logging, urban development, and invasive species are all significant threats to reptiles. Additionally, the threat of climate change is predicted to accelerate the rate of loss for many reptiles.

In general, the effectiveness of Protected Areas (PAs) to conserve herpetofauna is likely to increase across all RCPs scenarios and climate models examined. However, PAs are expected to be less effective at conserving reptile biodiversity than other tetrapod groups in a few regions with concentrated populations of threatened reptile species. For example, PAs are expected to be less effective in southeastern Asia, West Africa, and northern Madagascar for amphibians, and in the Kalahari and Karoo deserts for reptiles.


Educators work in a variety of settings from wildlife parks and zoos to birthday parties, libraries and even their own homes. They are generally also primary caretakers of the animals they use in their educational programs. This means that they must understand the individual health, behavioral, nutritional and environmental needs of each animal in their care. They must be able to communicate this information, both verbally and through physical contact, to the audience.

One of the most important goals of education is to change people’s perceptions of reptiles from those of fearsome, mindless predators to those of interesting and valuable members of a healthy ecosystem. This is most likely to happen through a positive encounter that promotes cognitive and affective learning, and that allows the learner to touch and handle reptiles.

When children are the target audience, educational efforts should focus on affective development, emphasizing emotional concern and sympathy for animals. Younger children may need the help of parents for this to be successful. For children aged 6-10, a hands-on approach is recommended, as they tend to have short attention spans.

People who are interested in pursuing careers in the field of reptile conservation should consider studying a Level 3 Award in Reptile Studies with a leading training provider. This will provide a comprehensive insight into herpetology, reptile and amphibian biology, physiology, classification, ecology and welfare. It will also cover the relevant aspects of captivity legislation and conservation strategies.

Prevention of Invasive Species

Reptiles are a class of vertebrates that includes snakes, turtles, lizards, and crocodiles. They have dry, scaly skin and lay eggs rather than having live young like amphibians and fish. Reptiles have a wide range of natural habitats including deserts, forests, and islands and archipelagos.

Reptile conservation efforts have focused on protecting habitat and educating the public about the need to conserve them. These efforts have helped to mitigate human-induced threats such as habitat loss, pollution and overexploitation. In addition, some conservation programs focus on dispelling myths about specific species such as crocodiles and alligators to increase public support for protection of their habitat.

However, comprehensive extinction risk assessments for reptiles have not been developed to date. As a result, conservation science and practice has typically relied on the IUCN Red List categories and distributions of birds, mammals, and amphibians to guide strategies. This approach may prove insufficient to effectively conserve reptiles.

A new study published in Nature analyzed the conservation needs of reptiles in comparison to those of mammals, birds, and amphibians. This was the first global analysis of reptile species, and it found that a high proportion (21% of all reptiles) are threatened with extinction. The study also showed that conservation actions taken to protect the majority of threatened birds, mammals, and amphibians are likely to co-benefit a similar proportion of threatened reptiles.


Today, reptiles are among the most imperiled species on Earth. Ubiquitous toxins, global warming, non-native predators, overcollection and habitat destruction are all contributing factors to their demise. More than 20 percent of all assessed reptile species are threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Until recently, comprehensive global reptile assessments did not exist, and conservation science and practice has relied on bird, mammal and amphibian Red List categories for these animals to inform policy and resource allocation decisions1.

This is changing. In a study published in PLOS Biology, an interdisciplinary team of researchers developed a new approach to estimating extinction risk using machine learning algorithms and applied it to a global dataset of 10,196 reptiles (the rest are unassessed or data deficient). The assessment found that the actual number of threatened reptile species is significantly higher than reflected in current IUCN Red List categories, and that unassessed and data deficient species are more likely to be threatened than assessed species.

Research and development for reptile conservation lags far behind that of other tetrapod groups. PARC’s regional working groups and national projects provide opportunities to help bridge this gap and make significant contributions toward herpetofaunal conservation. For example, in the US Southwest where the demand for renewable energy is high and could impact herpetofaunal habitat, a team of regional stakeholders is networking to develop land-use analyses that will accommodate both sensitive species and a sustainable green economy. In addition, the Ruane lab focuses on undescribed diversity in poorly known snakes, and is exploring the genetics of urban snake populations.