In a Queensland first, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) is trialling a captive breeding program to help bring a critically endangered reptile back from the brink of extinction.
The Nangur spiny skink has dwindled to around 3000 in the wild and can only be found at two locations in south east Queensland.
In the last four years one of the populations has declined by more than 60 percent, even with a range of management actions aimed to protect the skinks.
DES Ecologist Daniel Ferguson said 14 adult skinks were relocated to a specialised facility in Brisbane in January 2020 to participate in a captive breeding program.
“With the cold weather lately, the skinks are currently inactive inside their burrows under rocks,” Mr Ferguson said.
“They are acclimatising well to their new surroundings which includes soil and rocks from their home at the National Park.
“The purpose of the trial is to determine the feasibility of captive breeding in order to supplement the wild populations.
“The two populations of skinks represent two distinct genetic lineages and we will not be looking to cross breed them at this point in time.
“If the trial is successful, we will begin breeding skinks from the more critical second population as well.
“We have already had four sets of twins born in captivity, which is a great start, however we won’t know if the program has been successful until, hopefully, early 2021.
“We have witnessed some mating behaviour in the enclosures, however, the babies born to date were all conceived in the wild and we need to know we can breed them in captivity.
“We’re keeping a close eye on the skinks and are regularly conducting veterinary checks which have shown all the animals are healthy and have been maintaining or gaining weight.”
The Nangur spiny skink is listed as critically endangered under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 and critically endangered under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The captive breeding trial is key to helping the Nangur spiny skink population continue to survive in the wild.
There are a number of threats to the skink in the wild, including the recent bushfires, weeds, disease, illegal collection and introduced predators such as cats and foxes.