RESTORATION TRAJECTORY

Improving translocation management for restricted range reptiles Case Study: Western Spiny-tailed Skink (Egernia stokesii badia) 

By Holly Bradley

Reintroduction biology is an emerging science focussed on understanding translocation and reintroduction outcomes. Despite an increase in the number of reintroductions over time, many translocation programs end in failure. PhD student Holly Bradley is researching how to improve translocation protocol for an endangered skink, threatened by planned habitat clearing in the near future.

Background

Egernia stokesii badia is an endangered subspecies, at risk of extinction from a number of threatening processes.  A recommended recovery action listed under the Western Spiny-tailed Skink Recovery Plan is the development of a strategy to translocate at-risk populations.  However, mitigation-driven translocations run the risk of failure, without applying a more structural approach to address key reintroduction biology questions.  Over the last 20 years there has been a decrease in the number of reintroduction studies addressing establishment and meta-population dynamics, both included as a focus within this study.  Although there has been no published successful reintroductions of this subspecies, there are anecdotal reports of failed attempts, indicating complex requirements for establishment and persistence.  There is therefore strong reason to investigate the habitat and genetic requirements for colony persistence to improve reintroduction management protocol of this subspecies.

Aims

  • Determine the biotic and abiotic requirements for colony persistence
  • Determine how colony behaviour influences site establishment and persistence
  • Determine how post-release survival and dispersal are affected by pre- and post-release management

Significance

The specific microhabitat requirements, diet, dispersal characteristics, social structure, home range and predator interactions for E. s. badia will be determined in order to ascertain key population and meta-population level information prior to translocation. Investigation into the viability of artificial replication of refuges and habitat manipulation to create optimum release sites will also assist in improving translocation success for E. s. badia.  Not only will this research address a significant knowledge gap in the literature critical for understanding how to preserve this endangered subspecies, it will illustrate the practical application of this knowledge for management.  This study will also direct future research towards a clearer understanding of how to facilitate the future recovery of E. s. badia, with translocation procedure applicable around the globe.

 

Trajectory team

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