Reptile Biodiversity Hotspots
South Africa has more tortoise species than any other country in the world. Many of these tortoise species can be found no where else. Tortoises belonging to the genus Homopus commonly called Padloopers or Cape Tortoises can only be found in South Africa in desert or semi arid habitats. Geometric Tortoises found only in small areas in the Western Cape are at risk for extinction only x are thought to be left in the wild. The main risk to Geometric Tortoises is habitat destruction caused by luxury housing developments and bush fires. South Africa is home to both the second largest mainland tortoise and the smallest tortoise species, Leopard Tortoises and Speckled Padlooper respectively. Tortoises have high infant mortality rates and take many years to reach sexual maturity. Some of the smaller padlooper species only reach sexual maturity at 12 years of age and lay a single clutch of 3 eggs each year. Remember if you remove an adult tortoise from the wild as a pet it will take over a decade before a hatchling can take over your pets old job of continuing the survival of the species.
The Island of Madagascar was once attached to Africa. The animals that got stranded on the newly formed island were able to evolve in isolation for several million years. Madagascar has the most chameleon species in the world ranging from the cat sized Parson’s Chameleon to the finger nail sized Leaf Chameleon. No highly venomous snakes are found on Madagascar with only a few back fanged Colubrids capable of causing a careless snake handler some mild pain and swelling. Madagascar has several Boa species but no Python Species. The arrival of humans on Madagascar coincided with the extinction of several species such as the enormous flightless bird Elephant Birds and Giant Lemurs. Only around 10% of Madagascar’s forest are still standing and many more animals will go extinct in the near future. Animal smuggling is a big threat to Madagascan’s reptile population and as responsible reptile keepers we should never purchase wild caught reptiles.
Australia is both a continent and a very large island. Australia was once attached to South American and Africa as part of a super continent. The super continent was broken up and Australia became an isolated land mass where reptiles and other animals evolved in isolation from the rest of the world. Australia is known for its strange marsupial mammals and venomous creatures. Australia was once populated by mega fauna including giant carnivorous kangaroos and a six meter long monitor lizard. These animals began to go extinction around 20 000 years which coincides with the arrival and settlement of the first people in Australia. Australia has more python and monitor lizard species than anywhere else on the planet. Australia is the only continent which has more venomous snake species than harmless snake species. All dangerously venomous snakes in Australia are Elapids as this continent has no native viper or adder species ( Death Adders are Elapids). Australia has no native tortoise species but does have fresh water terrapins. No exotic reptiles enter Australia legally and no native species leave Australia legally. Some species such as Frilled Dragons and Green Tree Pythons are also found in Papua New Guinea where exporting local wildlife is largely unrestricted and unregulated.