BLOG: What happened at the first Slater's skink forum
Photo: Slater's Skinks are an endangered skink native only to Central Australia and once feared extinct
Over two days in and around Alice Springs, scientists, land managers, Indigenous rangers, Government staff and others met to discuss future plans for the on-going management and monitoring of the Slater’s skink (Egernia slateri).
One of two threatened skinks in Central Australia (the other being the Great desert skink (Lipholis kintorei)), Slater’s skink was once thought extinct however, over recent years several sub-populations have been discovered.
The first day of the forum was hosted by the Alice Springs Desert Park and centred around the existing research, management and monitoring being done for this medium sized skink.
Photo: Claire Treilibs (front) presents at the forum
Led by Claire Treilibs, who recently completed her PhD on the species, other presentations were given by Central Land Council’s Tjuwanpa Rangers (from Hermannsburg) and their Ltyentye Apurte Rangers (from Santa Theresa), as well as from Rachel Paltridge of Desert Wildlife Services and Peter McDonald of the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Photo: Forum attendees check out Alice Springs Desert Park's captive population of Slater's skinks
The afternoon was spent being introduced to the Desert Park’s captive population of Slater’s skink and hearing from the Park’s honours student, Bronte Stray, who talked through her research of the relationship between Slater’s skink and buffel grass.
To wrap up Day 1’s proceedings, Simon Ward (Principal Scientist, DENR) gave an overview of the current International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines for classifying the existing status of the Slater’s skink as ‘Threatened’. Since all Australian reptiles will be reassessed later this year, a discussion was held to determine whether existing IUCN categories for the Slater’s skink were still valid and, if not, where they may have changed over recent years.
The second day saw a smaller group being hosted by the Tjuwanpa Rangers at a site on the Finke River around 30kms north of Hermannsburg. Here, the Rangers have been monitoring a Slater’s skink population for around ten years.
Attendees learnt how to identify the skink burrows and to establish whether they were currently active or inactive. In monitoring a few of the active burrows, the occasional skink was not only seen, but photographed!
Photo: A Slater’s skink at the entrance to its burrow on a Finke River floodplain near Hermannsburg
A wrap up of the event was held under the shade of a large River Red Gum aside a large waterhole further upstream. Here participants shared a key message from the event and discussions were held in regard to continuing monitoring and furthering potential research and release options for the Desert Park’s captive population.
Photo: A thoughtful end to the proceedings
The event was a huge success with representatives from all aspects of managing Slater’s skink present. From standing in the field with binoculars staring at the entrance to a Slater’s skink burrow, through academic research and toward IUCN classification, all elements were covered giving participants an end-to-end glimpse into the spectrum of managing a threatened species.
There were several media reports on the Slater's skink forum, including from ABC Radio's NT Country Hour, which included this excerpt from Tjuwanpa Rangers' Craig Le Rossignol:
“It’s part of the landscape, it’s part of that link you know, it’s the chain. One belongs to the other, which then feeds the other and so forth like that until everything revolves in a big circle and we're all joined together with nature. Somewhere modern man has broken it up a little bit and we're now trying to fix some of it.”
The forum was supported Territory Natural Resource Management through funding from the Northern Territory Government’s Community Benefit Fund and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme, with collaborations and support from the Central Land Council, the Alice Springs Desert Park and forum participants.