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MEDIA RELEASE: Central Australians rally to conserve native species once thought extinct

Photo: A Slater's Skink. Credit: Claire Treilibs

An endangered skink, native only to central Australia, will be thrown a lifeline this month when land managers and scientists hold the first Slater’s skink forum in Alice Springs.

Territory Natural Resource Management, in collaboration with Central Land Council, will host the two day event on April 11 and 12 to discuss how to look after the skink, which once flourished in the Finke and MacDonnell ranges bioregions, and northern parts of South Australia.

Slater’s skink (Liopholis slateri), also known as the Floodplain skink, is a small, burrowing lizard that inhabits the floodplains and small creeks in central Australia.

At one point Slater’s skinks were thought to have almost disappeared, but in 2004, Indigenous Rangers and scientists rediscovered several skink populations.

Since then Indigenous Rangers have been working at the forefront of monitoring and managing Slater’s skinks.

It is now thought 11 populations currently exist, occurring within a 150 kilometre radius of Alice Springs.

A subspecies from northern South Australia has not been recorded for 100 years and is likely to have gone extinct due to impacts of increased grazing pressure.

In central Australia, skink populations have been found across a range of property tenures such as pastoral leases, Aboriginal land and conservation reserves.

The forum will bring together landholders, rangers and scientists with an interest in protecting the Slater’s skink to share their experiences and collaborate on management ideas.

Dr Claire Treilibs has just completed the most intensive study of the species to date, as part of her PhD project with the NT Department of Natural Resources and Flinders University.

She found that individual Slater’s skinks could be identified by the unique arrangement of spots and scales on their face.

“I used photographic identification to track individuals in a population over four years, which has given us a greater insight into survey methods for the species and how populations survive in risky floodplain habitats”, Dr Treilibs said.

Territory NRM CEO Karen May said the resilience but rarity of Slater’s skinks has meant that conservation efforts have been ongoing, but they still faced serious threats.

“Slater’s skinks are vulnerable to wildfires and potential flooding, as well as the spread of the introduced buffel grass, which has changed their habitat considerably,” Ms May said.

“By coming together and sharing ideas we can help mitigate some of these pressures.

“For example, we know feral animals also pose a threat to some Slater’s skink populations, but by building exclusion fences or carefully managing grazing pressure, we can reduce that risk.”

This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme and the Northern Territory Government’s Community Benefit Fund.




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