New funding gives hope to endangered Australian species

New funding gives hope to endangered species

Claudia Doman

9 June 2011: The highly endangered grassland earless dragon has now a better chance of survival thanks to research funds awarded to the University of Canberra last week.

A team of researchers led by Professor Stephen Sarre was granted $395,000 to identify the reasons that have made species like the grassland earless dragon endangered or vulnerable, as well as to develop tools to prevent the extinction of this and other reptiles.

The Australian Research Council linkage project grant will fund the four year study aiming to save this tiny, stunningly patterned lizard from the brink of extinction in the ACT and the surrounding region.

In addition, the ACT government has also committed $304,000 to this project.


Hope ahead for this tiny ACT grassland earless dragon thanks to UC

“This money will mean that we can put substantial effort into the conservation of the species,” Professor Sarre, leading chief investigator of the study, said.

“We hope this research gives the grassland earless dragon a shot at survival,” he said. “I’m optimistic, but I just hope we are not too late.”

Professor Sarre explained that the project aims to understand the drivers that cause the species to collapse in numbers. At the same time, the team hopes to develop ways to prevent its extinction, such as establishing a breeding colony that if successful, will boost the populations.

The University’s team of researchers has some idea of what has caused the decline in the grassland earless dragon population. “On the one hand, there has been an overarching loss and degradation of habitat for the last 100-130 years through urbanization and agriculture,” Professor Sarre said.

“But another more recent cause is the recent drought which has meant a lower number of eggs hatching. Our modeling suggests that the main population problem has come about because of the dry soils and high temperatures since this species lays its eggs on the ground.”

The lizards are known to lay clutches of a few eggs just under the soil surface which is exposed to several types of disturbance, such as drought, pasture improvement and unmanaged grazing.