Zoos SA is thrilled to announce a world-first for conservation with the successful captive breeding of the endangered Pygmy Blue-tongue Lizard at Monarto Zoo.
The birth of 14 lizards this year is the first time the species has been successfully bred in captivity and represents a major contribution towards the conservation of one Australia’s rarest native reptiles.
The first baby Pygmy Blue-tongue was discovered by Monarto Zoo staff on Australia Day. Since then, five female lizards have given birth, producing four litters of triplets and one pair of twins.
Zoos SA Conservation Programs Manager Dr Phil Ainsley says the births were a significant step forward in safeguarding the species from extinction.
“The Pygmy Blue-tongue is one of the rarest reptiles in the country and we need to do everything we can to ensure the survival of this species,” Dr Ainsley said.
“Zoos SA has been involved in the conservation of this species since its rediscovery back in 1992 so this is an amazing success story and a resounding endorsement for our purpose built breeding facility that has only been in use for just over 18 months.
“Over the last few weeks, the little lizards have become more active, venturing out of their burrows where they have been seen eating crickets.”
Female lizards give birth to live young with babies sharing a burrow with their mum and siblings for the first couple of weeks.
The Pygmy Blue-tongue was once thought to be extinct and is only found in the mid-north of South Australia between Kapunda and Peterborough.
This amazing little lizard had not been seen in its natural habitat for more than 30 years when in the spring of 1992 a herpetologist examining the stomach contents of a roadkill Eastern Brown Snake discovered the body of a Pygmy Blue-tongue.
Over the 24 years that have passed since its rediscovery, a focused research program involving a diverse range of stakeholders including Zoos SA, has been working to ensure the recovery and conservation of the species and develop an understanding of this unique lizard.
As their name suggests, Pygmy Blue-tongues are much smaller than other members of the blue-tongue family, rarely exceeding 18cm in length, and is distinctive because their tongue is actually pink in colour!
The Pygmy Blue-tongue is also unique in that it spends most of its time in the safety of disused spider burrows created by either Trapdoor or Wolf Spiders, emerging to feed and bask in the sun.