Last sighted in 1969, a tiny lizard from the Australian state of Queensland has been rediscovered by scientists who now hope to act fast to ascertain its numbers.
Not all dragons can be fearsome firebreathers. Indeed, the Victorian grassland earless dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla, is just 15 centimeters long (6 inches).
Once commonly found in grasslands west of Melbourne, the little drake diminished at the paws of invasive predators like foxes and cats, and potentially from the fragmentation of habitat.
Considerable effort had been made to locate one of these tiny animals, though they never succeeded. Zoos Victoria, a coalition of zoos in Victoria state that runs many conservation programs, took up the hunt in 2017.
“The extraordinary rediscovery of this critically endangered and cryptic lizard inspires optimism for the recovery of this Victorian species,” said Dr. Jenny Gray, Zoos Victoria’s chief executive.
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Tympanocryptis pinguicolla has no external ear opening or eardrum, hence the name “earless.”
The Guardian reports that the state and federal governments are pooling AU$188,000 for an expedition to assess the current population using sniffing dogs to locate them.
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“I want to protect our precious creatures for our kids and grandkids. It’s such exciting news that the Victorian grassland earless dragon has been rediscovered. It’s a reminder about why it’s so important to invest in habitat restoration and the eradication of feral species like cats and foxes,” said Tanya Plibersek, the federal environment minister.
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