Described as the most endangered reptile in the world, the Grassland Earless Dragon has not appeared in Victoria since 1969.
A small reptile not seen in Victoria for over 50 years and thought to be extinct in the wild has been rediscovered in a secret Victorian location.
The landmark discovery of a Victorian grassland earless dragon population was announced today, which provides renewed hope for the critically endangered species last sighted in 1969.
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The little dragon is light brown with three white stripes running down and a number of darker bands running across its body. It is just 15cm from head to tail when fully grown. Unlike most other lizards it doesn’t have external ear openings. It’s an energetic little animal for its size and adults can move over 110 metres in a day. The Grassland Earless Dragon was once widespread throughout western Victoria, NSW and the ACT.
Also commonly found in native grasslands west of Melbourne, habitat loss and a break up of the populations are thought to be the main causes of decline in the species.
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 Andrews Labor Government working alongside the Albanese Government and Zoos Victoria to establish a plan to ensure the species’ recovery.
In doing so, both 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.
Zoos Victoria chief executive Dr Jenny Gray said the funding will assist expert teams to find more dragons and grow the numbers.
“We are pretty excited. Dragons are a big deal and to have such an endangered dragon in our population is just something that makes us incredibly excited,” she said.
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.
“This is an amazing discovery and offers an opportunity for us to recover a species once thought lost to our state and the world!” says Victorian Minister for Environment Ingrid Stitt.
“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.
“We will continue to work hard at protecting Victoria’s most vulnerable creatures and secure their future for generations to come.”
Read the press release here.