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Help the Legless Lizard - Appeal to landholders
photo of Striped Legless Lizard21 April 2004

A major push to save the Striped Legless Lizard, a small endangered creature unique to grasslands of southeastern Australia, is underway in south western Victoria.

A dedicated recovery team consisting of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), RMIT University Ecology Research Group and Greening Australia is aiming to locate and preserve the remaining populations of the Striped Legless Lizard by working with landholders to protect and improve its habitat.

DSE Threatened Species Project Officer Garry Peterson said the team was looking for the assistance of landholders in the Corangamite and Glenelg Hopkins catchments to help determine Striped Legless Lizard populations.

"We are surveying for areas of habitat on private property, such as remnant native grasslands or rocky terrain, where the Striped Legless Lizard may be living.

"Once an area of potential habitat for the endangered lizard is identified, we consider establishing a monitoring transect, consisting of 50 roof tiles arranged in a 20 by 50 meter grid. Information collected from these transects will provide a record of the current distribution and status of the Striped Legless Lizard in the Corangamite and Glenelg Hopkins catchments," he said.

"We are particularly keen for landowners who think they have already sighted this creature or have remanent grassland on their properties and who would not mind having a few roofing tiles placed in their paddocks to contact us."

"The Legless Lizards like to get under the roof tiles because the tile retains heat, which allows us to successfully sample this otherwise difficult-to-detect species," he said.

The Striped Legless Lizard is a medium-sized (up to 300mm), snake-like lizard, pale grey-brown in colour with a series of light and dark parallel stripes running down the sides of its body. It is extremely cryptic and rarely seen in its grassland habitat as it shelters in soil cracks, crevices under rocks, or in the base of grass tussocks.

Mr Peterson said widespread habitat destruction has been the major cause of the decline of the Striped Legless Lizard and the fragmentation of its grassland habitat.

"The grassland habitat of the Striped Legless Lizard in southwestern Victoria has been extensively modified due to clearing of vegetation, heavy grazing, pasture improvement, weed invasion and rock removal."

Known from only a handful of sites in southwestern Victoria, ongoing monitoring and previous surveys have shown that the Striped Legless Lizard has disappeared from a number of historic sites.

The recovery team is currently working with landholders around Hamilton, Casterton and Coleraine and wants to expand the project across the southwest.

"We would like to engender a sense of ownership of this creature in the landholder, with the landholder having an added appreciation of their property as home to one of Australia's threatened grassland specialist species," Mr Peterson said.

Community enquiries regarding the lizard, its habitat and DSE's project can be made to Cath Grant, DSE Striped Legless Lizard Project Officer, phone Colac 5233 5591.

Source: Media Release from the Department of Sustainability and Environment

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