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Battle to save rare Wheatbelt lizard

Work is underway to help preserve one of the few known families of western spiny-tailed skinks living in the WA Wheatbelt. Listed as a threatened species, the lizard can grow up to 30 centimetres in length and is easily recognised by its spiky tail. Bencubbin farmer Tony Gillett said he found the colony of skinks on his property by accident. “I was burning some dead logs, trying to clean up a raceway used to move sheep, when I caught sight of these lizards, which look just like a bob tail with a saw tooth tail,” Tony Gillett said. “At least a couple of families were living in a dead tree, and since discovering them, I’ve put another couple of dead logs nearby.” Phil Lewis from WWF is helping to preserve populations of rare wildlife through Wheatbelt NRM’s Healthy Bushlands project. He said work like this was needed because the number of skinks was in decline. “Surveys were carried out by the Department of Environment and Conservation four years ago in the Northern and Central Wheatbelt,” Phil Lewis said. “They found only six populations, five of them living in woodheaps or under piles of tin, with only one colony living in its natural habitat. “That’s why this discovery is so important.” Phil Lewis said the number of skinks was dwindling because of predators like foxes and cats as well as the destruction of their habitat. “When we heard there was a family living on a farm between Bencubbin and Beacon, we set up a camera trap to film them,” he said. “We now have proof they exist in the area, and through the Healthy Bushlands program, we’ll begin some monitoring and habitat restoration.” Phil Lewis was now urging other landholders to be on the look out for the threatened species. Wheatbelt NRM’s Healthy Bushland program is funded through the Australian Government’s Caring for our Country Program. Landholders wanting more information on the program can contact Wheatbelt NRM on 9690 2250. Media contact: Phil Lewis, WWF 0437 971 344 or 9681 1152.