How threatened is the Huanren ground skink?

How threatened is Scincella huanrenensis? An update on threats and trends.

The Huanren skink is restricted to continental northeast Asia but it’s range and threats had not been understood and summarised until the fruition of this project. Our results are a collaboration of the work conducted by Yucheol Shin and Kevin Messenger as lead authors, and Kyo Soung Koo, Sang Cheol Lee, Mian Hou and Amaël Borzée.

It is important to understand the dynamics of population size to accurately assess threats and implement conservation activities when required. However, inaccurate estimates are harming both the threat estimation process, and the resulting conservation actions.

Here, we address the extinction threats to Scincella huanrenensis, a species described in the People’s Republic of China, but also occurring on the Korean peninsula. Estimating the threats to the species is not an easy task due to its unknown population status in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Here we analysed the literature to acquire the known presence point for the species, along with datapoints originating from opportunistic field surveys, and employed habitat suitability models to estimate the range of the species.

Scincella huanrenensis photographed in Odaesan National Park in September 2019.

We then followed the categories and criteria of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to assess and update the extinction risk of the species. We found the species not to be fitting the threatened category at the global scale based on the range size, the only category for which enough data was available. We recommend the status of the species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to be updated as it is now listed as Critically Endangered, a listing fitting a national assessment for the People’s Republic of China.

While this species is possibly less threatened than currently listed, this is not a genuine improvement, and specific conservation aspects should not be neglected due to its specialisation to medium to high elevation habitat.

Ranges for Scincella huanrenensis. The range shaded in red was computed from a minimum convex polygon (MCP) restricted to land area and the Maxent binary presence map. The range size estimated from the MCP (87,648.1 km2) was considerably broader than the one based on Maxent binary map (26,721.9 km2). This discrepancy is likely due to poor sampling in Jilin and and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Also, the range “gap” between Liaoning-Jilin and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea likely reflects poor sampling in these regions.

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