Mid North families support local lizard research

News article |

Several local families braved a wet and windy Sunday morning recently to help researchers from Flinders University search for pygmy bluetongue lizards, as part of the annual Tiliqua Lizard Crawl.

Seven families from Kybunga, Spalding, Snowtown, Sevenhill and Clare met at the Tiliqua Reserve north of Burra for the annual event, hosted by Nature Foundation SA.

Natural Resources Northern and Yorke (NRNY) Community Team Leader for Mid and Lower North District, Bonnie Maynard said that this was the first year that local families had participated in the event.

“It was wonderful to see so many local families taking part and learning more about this unique nationally Endangered species that lives on their doorstep,” she said.

Thought to be extinct, the small lizard was rediscovered near Burra in 1992. Its native grassland habitat is now severely fragmented, with most pygmy bluetongues living as isolated populations on privately owned properties. It is known only from about three dozen sites in the Mid North, the top of Yorke Peninsula and in the Adelaide Hills.

The small lizards don’t build their own burrows, relying on spiders to do the work for them. Finding where they live has been the focus of research for several years and scientists have developed a special instrument to help them.

The volunteers learned how to use an optical fibrescope – or ‘optiscope’ – to find the small lizards in the bottom of trapdoor and wolf spider burrows.

“Without the the small mirrored instrument you cannot see if there is a lizard or a spider ‘at home’,” Ms Maynard said.

“The children had a real knack for finding the spider burrows and it was inspiring to see them out there on such a bleak morning, hands-on in nature, leading the researchers to what could be a potential pygmy bluetongue residence.”

65 volunteers, with almost half coming from the Mid North, took part in the activities, before retreating to local farmer and pygmy bluetongue conservation advocate, Chris Reed’s shearing shed for a catered lunch.

The pygmy bluetongue is the smallest of the Tiliqua lizards, which include the well known bluetonges and shinglebacks.

Participating families from the Mid North were sponsored by the Northern and Yorke NRM Board, with NRNY officers Bonnie Maynard and Denni Russell also attending the event and providing free information packs to all volunteers.

Natural Resources Northern and Yorke supports a number of Threatened species conservation projects. For more information contact the Natural Resource Centre in Clare on 08 8841 3444.

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