The US Fish and Wildlife Service believe that three amphibian species and seven reptiles – including the hard-biting, spiky-shelled alligator snapping turtle, may have to be brought under federal protection.
Authorities stated that these species will have to undergo more study before they can be classified under ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened’.
“This is an excellent step toward getting these species protection,” said Jaclyn Lopez, director of the Florida office of the Centre for Biological Diversity, speaking on Wednesday about the federal decision. According to Jaclyn Lopez, the species which are protected under the umbrella of the ‘Endangered Species Act’s’ have an excellent probability of survival.
The non-profit environmental group had asked the Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 to protect 53 species including the slow, hook-beaked alligator snapping turtles, which can reach 200 pounds and have a fleshy fish lure in their mouths. “They are some prehistoric-looking creatures,” Lopez said.
A spotted turtle once found across the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Florida, and green salamanders, a tree-climbing species that once inhabited 13 Appalachian states are also included in the list.
The main threat to the animal on the list is loss of habitat due to development, farming, damming of rivers and stream impoundment. Tierra Currry, a senior scientist at the centre based in Tucson, Arizona, said it is still awaiting a federal decision on about 26 of the other reptile and amphibian species.
A statement from the Fish and Wildlife Service said another five species, including a crawfish species for which the centre requested protection on another petition, don’t require such help.
Alligator snapping turtles once were found from Illinois and Indiana to Florida, Texas and Kansas. Recent surveys found that they’ve probably been completely eradicated in Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, with numbers down as much as 95% over much of their historic range from habitat loss and overharvesting — which until 2004 included taking wild turtles for soup in Louisiana restaurants. Louisiana, the last state to protect the turtles, now forbids any commercial hunting.