DES helps bring near-extinct skink back from brink

14 more critically endangered Nangur spiny skinks have been released into their natural habitat west of Gympie

14 more critically endangered Nangur spiny skinks have been released into their natural habitat west of Gympie

The Department of Environment and Science (DES) staff have released 14 more critically endangered Nangur spiny skinks into the wild as part of a recovery program that is bringing these lizards back from the brink of extinction.

The skinks have been bred in a DES facility to improve population numbers, thanks to a collaborative effort between ecologists, conservation officers and park rangers.

This is the second group of spiny skinks to be released into their natural habitat west of Gympie, as part of the program.

Following the success of the first release in January this year, with all six lizards surviving and one having two babies, the second group were released into the same area on 5 December 2023.

DES Senior Ecologist Daniel Ferguson said initial observations show the lizards are settling into their new digs, cleaning out their burrows and basking normally during the day.

“Both releases have gone so well that we’re expecting some of the females to give birth to young early next year,” he said.

“We will continue monitoring the skinks to study their behaviour and survival.”

DES staff have fitted out the 3,600 square metre release site with artificial burrows, cameras and barriers to protect the skinks from potential predators.

The site is located in an extensive area of remaining spiny skink habitat and has been strategically selected to have reduced fire risk.

With less than 1,000 Nangur spiny skinks remaining in the wild, the recovery program is playing a crucial role in ensuring the survival of this species, which is only found in Queensland.

A total of 30 spiny skinks have been bred in captivity as part of the program since January 2020.

The recovery program has been recognised by the Foundation for Australia’s Most Endangered Species (FAME), who have committed to a three-year funding agreement for the program.

The most recent release of the skinks coincides with the launch of a Natura Pacific documentary capturing the ongoing efforts to save this species.

Natura Pacific have been following the recovery program for the past eight months as part of their Back from the Brink documentary series.

Natura Pacific’s series showcases recovery efforts for some of Australia’s most threatened species.

Previous episodes have featured other Queensland-based recovery programs including for the Loggerhead sea-turtle and the Richmond birdwing butterfly.

This latest episode covers the collaborative efforts within the Department and their partnerships with external organisations including Gympie Regional Council, who funded the film through their EnviroGrants Program, and James Cook University to improve the lizard’s population numbers.

Back from the Brink producer Dr Mark Nadir Runkovski said the series was all about bringing the extinction crisis to front-of-mind in Australia, not only to flag its seriousness, but to provide solutions to its resolve.

“While the climate crisis is slowly gaining traction around the world as something we must address, the loss of biodiversity through extinction has taken a back-seat,” Dr Runkovski said.

“Back from the Brink aims to fix that.”

The documentary is now available for free online via YouTube, Facebook and the Back from the Brink Action Hub, and on Spotify and iTunes as a podcast.

/Public Release. View in full here.