Missing Lizards

Sunday, 24 September, 2000

A small dragon and a species of legless lizard have vanished from agricultural areas of central New South Wales. Up to nine other reptile species are also in decline, CSIRO wildlife researchers warned.

Declines are an ongoing process due to the reduction of native vegetation. The amount of native vegetation left in the places studied was found to be down to about 15 or 20%. Land managers may have the opportunity to develop the land sustainably by not clearing down to that level, or by re-establishing more than 15 to 20% cover of original vegetation communities.

The CSIRO study found that virtually no reptiles were caught in open paddocks indicating that by keeping or recreating wide strips of roadside vegetation and windbreaks, a base-level of reptile species may survive. A small nature reserve could also provide habitat for an additional suite of species. Patches of only 1 to 6 square km in size may also allow sensitive species to survive in the landscape, especially when remnants are not grazed by livestock. In addition, extra levels of native vegetation cover is needed for the whole complement of reptile diversity to survive.

There are museum records of the hooded scaly-foot and painted dragon from the Rankins Springs area of NSW but despite the extensive trapping program, not a single specimen was captured in the agricultural landscape. Land clearing appears to be the reason for its demise because thriving populations of both species were found in uncleared areas. Three other declining species were found in small nature reserves in the study area, while six species seemed to survive better in reserves rather than in linear bush remnants like windbreaks and roadside vegetation.

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