Reptile conservation efforts address the loss of natural habitat and declining numbers of certain species. Conservation groups work to bring attention to the issue through education, protection or restoration of habitat, and legislation that supports reptile conservation. These groups typically use scientific research to identify how certain reptiles become endangered or threatened and look for solutions to protect turtles and tortoises, snakes and lizards, and crocodiles and alligators.
The declining numbers of sea turtles prompted international treaties to protect survival of these creatures. Pollution, especially from plastic waste, and capture for commercial use pose threats to sea turtles worldwide. Some sea turtles die when they become accidentally trapped in commercial fishing nets. Conservation programs also address human destruction of beach nesting sites.
Reptile Conservation International, a nonprofit organization, promotes the application of synthetic hormones to turtle eggs to produce more females. Researchers discovered topical applications of estrogen could override the natural process that determines the sex of turtles during the incubation period. The temperature of eggs in the late stage of development determines the sex, and manipulation of this process might replenish endangered species.
Experiments on two kinds of sea turtles, freshwater turtles, farmed crocodiles, and geckos showed this patented method created no adverse effects on a female’s ability to reproduce at maturity. The reptile conservation group considers hormone application a cost-effective way to address endangered reptiles, reporting $20 US Dollars (USD) can treat approximately 250,000 eggs. This method might replace the task of digging up turtle eggs and moving them to an offsite incubation facility, a process that typically produces a higher number of males and poses difficulty in remote areas.
Habitat protection represents another goal of reptile conservation programs. Natural habitats might become contaminated by pollution or destroyed by urban growth. The desert tortoise might be affected by off-road vehicles, ranching or agricultural expansion, and development of alternative energy sources. Conservation groups commonly work with private land owners and public agencies to protect and restore these areas.
Educational components of reptile conservation typically include information to dispel myths about certain species, especially crocodiles, alligators, and snakes. Conservation groups commonly explain the importance of each species to the ecosystem and urge citizens to support preservation efforts. These groups might also work with landowners to preserve threatened habitat.
Reptile conservation might involve ecotourism, one of the fastest-growing industries worldwide. It addresses the fine balance between preserving the economic benefits of tourism with potential harm to the environment. Many ecotourism activities incorporate educational campaigns into the overall experience of viewing reptiles in the wild.