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Grassland Earless Dragon
The search for the Grassland Earless Dragon
The Grassland Earless Dragon (Tympanocryptis pinguicolla) has not been seen in Victoria since 1969.
Zoos Victoria has been actively searching for the dragon since 2017, conducting habitat assessments throughout the western basalt plains of Victoria at sites including Geelong, Batesford, Shelford, Parwon, Eynesbury and Little River.
This helped identify two priority sites in Little River (within the historical distribution of the species) to set up intensive pitfall trapping in 2018. While these did not uncover any signs of the dragon, they allowed an investigation into invertebrate diversity and abundance at these sites to determine the potential for supporting earless dragons.
We haven't given up yet and Zoos Victoria is committed to continuing the search for any remaining populations of Grassland Earless Dragons in Victoria. While this continues, reptile keepers at Melbourne Zoo will be providing husbandry and breeding support for the National Recovery Team with individuals from the ACT and NSW populations.
And we need your help! 9 possible sightings have been reported by the community in the past 2 years. Upon further investigation these were identified as other dragon species, but the more people looking, the higher the chance of finding the dragons if they are out there.
If you think you have seen a Grassland Earless Dragon or know of suitable habitat that could be home to the dragons, you can report it here.
About the dragon
The Grassland Earless Dragon was once widespread and found throughout western Victoria, NSW and ACT, from Geelong to Bathurst. However many populations have been lost, with the last confirmed sighting of a Grassland Earless Dragon in Victoria in 1969 at Little River, with unconfirmed sightings continuing up to 1990. Habitat loss and fragmentation are thought to be the main causes of decline in the species.
This little dragon reaches just 15cm from head to tail when fully grown.
They are typically light brown in colour, with three white stripes running down their body and a number of darker bands running across the body.
They lack external ear openings unlike most other lizards.
This little animal is also energetic for its size, with some adults moving over 110 m a day.
- Open, short grasslands, with some rocks to bask on.
- Prefer areas that have not been cultivated or distrubed and dominated by native wallaby grasses, spear grasses, tussock grasses, and kangaroo grass.
- Some areas to consider as suitable habitat might be rail reserves, roadsides and cemeteries - as they as less likely to be disturbed
How can you help?
- Visit one of our three zoos - Zoos Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation - we rely on the support of our visitors and members for conservation work. By visiting Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo or Werribee Open Range Zoo, you will be supporting our work to fight extinction.
- If you know of suitable habitat or want to report a possble sighting of a Grassland Earless Dragon, visit zoo.org.au/dragonsearch
Saving the Grassland Earless Dragon
As part of Zoos Victoria’s Wildlife Conservation Masterplan 2014- 2019 and with support from the Victorian Government’s Fighting Extinction Fund, Zoos Victoria is working to confirm the existence of the dragon in Victoria through additional surveys and contribute to the national conservation of the Grassland Earless Dragon.
Plans and publications
- Robertson P. & Evans M. (2009) National Recovery Plan for the Grassland Earless Dragon Tympanocryptis pinquicolla. ACT Department of Territory and Municipal Services (1.3 MB)
- Tympanocryptis pinguicolla in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra.
- This species has unfortunately not been seen in Victoria for some years.
- Males and females may only breed once in their lifetime.
- During colder months, the Grassland Earless Dragon may undergo torpor (a mild form of hibernation).