Victorian Reptile thought extinct rediscovered

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek.

A small reptile not seen in Victoria for over 50 years and thought to be extinct in the wild has been rediscovered.

The state government announced the landmark discovery of a Victorian grassland earless dragon population on Sunday, June 25, which provides renewed hope for the critically endangered species last sighted in 1969.

Once commonly found in native grasslands west of Melbourne, their numbers declined as a result of habitat loss and predators like foxes and feral cats.

To protect the habitat and the species, the location of the rediscovered population cannot be revealed – but surveys are ongoing at the rediscovery site to better understand the population size, with the government working alongside Zoos Victoria to establish a plan to ensure the species’ recovery.

The state and federal governments are investing $188,000 for a new project trialling the use of specially trained detection dogs to sniff out more populations of the dragon to help inform the level of conservation required. A conservation breeding program is also being established by Zoos Victoria to ensure the species is not lost again.

The Victorian grassland earless dragon is listed as critically endangered under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 and the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said it’s “exciting news that the Victorian grassland earless dragon has been rediscovered”.

“It’s a reminder about why it’s so important to invest in habitat restoration and the eradication of feral species like cats and foxes,” she said.

Victorian Environment Minister Ingrid Stitt said this is an “amazing discovery and offers an opportunity for us to recover a species once thought lost to our state and the world”.

“With the help of our partners we will continue to fight the extinction of this critically endangered species – ensuring future generations can see and learn about this incredibly unique lizard,” she said.

“We will continue to work hard at protecting Victoria’s most vulnerable creatures and secure their future for generations to come.”

Zoos Victoria chief executive Dr Jenny Gray said the “extraordinary rediscovery” of this critically endangered and cryptic lizard “inspires optimism for the recovery of this Victorian species, and Zoos Victoria is proud to be lending years of expertise honed through the breeding recovery program at Melbourne Zoo for Canberra dragons”.