Striped legless lizards monitoring experience

How is striped legless lizard current condition?

Striped legless lizard (Delma impar) is recognised as a vulnerable species internationally  IUCN. Ongoing efforts are required to sustain its potential growth and evolutionary development in the wild (O’Shea, 2005). In term of Victoria listed on schedule 2 of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, 1998. Delma impar has satisfied two of the criteria: (1) the taxon is at the state the population is likely to result in extinction. (2) The taxon is significantly prone to future threats which are likely to result in extinction (BANKS, 1992).  The main reason for the declining lizard population resulted in the loss of native grassland habitat (BANKS, 1992). A striped legless is a specialized arthropod feeder; predominantly their prey is cricket, spider and noctuid moth (Kutt, et al., 1998). The extent of occurrence of the striped legless lizard is approximately 81 879 km² starting from the board between SA and VIC, then extends to the ACT and Northern NSW as shown below. The distribution of striped legless lizard is declining, and many known sites might no longer support the population (Smith & Robertson 1999). At the meantime, Striped legless lizard monitoring is implementing by the ACT government which is my volunteering work experience for the past few weeks.


Figure 1. Australia Striped legless lizards distribution












Two days monitoring experience

Chloe Sato is an ACT government environmental officer for this Striped legless lizard monitoring program. I have spent two Friday mornings to assist Chole for the monitoring. The monitoring method is to setup tiles at the environmental offset sites around the ACT. Nine grids tiles are placed on the ground with different ground covers such as tussock, native grassland, and bare ground. The number of striped legless lizard under the tiles is recorded for monitoring purposes.

The first day of my monitoring, we went to Campbell park woodland Canberra. The monitoring starts around 8.30am with a temperature of 11℃. It was a sunny morning with no cloud cover and winds. As the temperature rises, Striped legless lizards will move away from the tiles. Therefore, we need to finish the checking before a significant increase in temperature. Unfortunately, we have not recorded any striped legless lizard for the first days. Interestingly, we have found two Red-throated Skink (Acritoscincus platynotum), and they are common lizard group that widely spread across Canberra. Surprisingly, a formicary of termite (Cryptocercus) was found under a tile. The tiles were placed two weeks before, and it was amazing to see how quickly the termite response to the changing of the environment. Also, this reflects on the concept we learned in biodiversity conservation on how decreasing of predators of species could lead to an increasing population of that species.

Picture 1. Red- Throated Skink found in Campbell Park Woodland


Picture 2. A tile with a formicary of termites underneath.

On the Second Friday morning, we visited two local farmlands, and they are located in Majura road and Michell Canberra. As a result, we have recorded one unknown lizard. Other species such as spiders, beetles, and ants are much less abundant than the Campbell woodland. An interesting thing happened in the farmland where a baby cow went over the fence to another side of the farm. We were following the baby cow and trying to get it back to its mom.

Picture 3. A baby cow is getting to its mom.

The species abundance of the two farmlands is much lower than Campbell woodland; this could be an indicator of how grazing is significantly impacting the habitats of species. Will reduce grazing activities increase the abundance of species? That could work for some species, depending on the species’ conditions, especially striped legless lizard, further research is required to provide an effective monitoring method. It is a valuable experience to understand the changing environment effects on the species. In the meantime, the monitoring is still progress, and I am excited to see what our final finding could be.

Guanghong Zheng u5800141


BANKS, C. B., 1992. The Striped Legless Lizard Working Group: an interagency initiative to save Delma impar: an endangered reptile. International zoo yearbook, 1(31), pp. 45-49.

Kutt, A. S., Coulson, G. & Wainer, J., 1998. Diet of the Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar (Squamata: pygopodidae) in a western (basalt) plains grassland, Victoria. Australian Zoologist, 30(4), pp. 412-418.

O’Shea, M. B., 2005. Methods for assessment and techniques for management of Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar populations in south-eastern Australia, Victoria: Sustainable Group Victoria University.

Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson (1999). National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) 1999-2003. NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service & Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd. Available from: In effect under the EPBC Act from 16-Jul-2000.



About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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1 Response to Striped legless lizards monitoring experience

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience Guanghong. Phil

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