Funding To Help Protect Threatened Dragon

A project at The University of Western Australia has received $426,497 in Federal Government funding to help save a vulnerable rock dragon.

The project, led by UWA in collaboration with Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum, Wajarri Yamatji Rangers and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, was awarded the grant by the Australian Government Saving Native Species Program.

Project lead Dr Natasha LeBas, from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, said the Yinnietharra rock dragon, Ctenophorus yinnietharra, is one of the most poorly known of the threatened priority species.

“The Yinnietharra rock dragon has been recorded at just two pastoral localities less than 100 kilometres apart in the Gascoyne River region of Western Australia,” Dr LeBas said.

“Only 23 records of the rock dragon exist in Western Australia, and they are in the WA Museum Collection, and most of these are from more than 40 years ago.”

The project will prioritise ground surveys to determine if these populations still exist and if they can be located anywhere else.

“The rock dragons only have a lifespan of one to three years and live in an area of high pastoral activity and low rainfall,” Dr LeBas said.

“Trying to determine the long-term sustainability of each of these small populations is an immediate priority.”

The team will determine the genetic health of the species, which will inform the need for protection of areas with high conservation value.

“The dragon is likely to be under threat from introduced predators such as feral cats, pastoral pressure and future mining activities,” Dr LeBas said.

“Warming of the dragon’s habitat due to climate change and a change in vegetation is also likely to threaten the species, given that most Australian dragon lizard species have been shown to have temperature-dependent sex determination.”

The research will also be used to update and substantially expand the 2008 Conservation Advice.

Image above: Yinnietharra rock dragon. Credit: Brad Maryan

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