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Healesville Sanctuary

Alpine She-oak Skink

The mountain habitats of the Alpine She-oak Skink (Cyclodomorphus praealtus) are so isolated that they are sometimes described as ‘sky islands’ – each mountain top is separated from the others by a ‘sea’ of lower-altitude habitat that is unsuitable for this species. 

Alpine She-oak Skinks are only found in four locations in Victoria, as well as a scattering of locations in NSW, all above 1500m in altitude. Genetic differences between the Victorian and NSW populations suggest that these populations have not been connected for millennia, and the species is listed as endangered nationally.

Alpine She-oak Skinks hibernate over winter and are known to live for more than five years in the wild. Their life history is not well known, but individuals are thought to mature at 2–3 years of age, mate in late spring/early summer and give birth to 2–9 young in mid to late summer.

Because Alpine She-oak Skinks have such a restricted distribution, they are very vulnerable to events such as fire. A large fire could potentially kill many individuals. It would also destroy the understorey vegetation, and so make any remaining lizards very vulnerable to predators such as hawks and foxes.

Alpine She-oak Skink habitat has also been affected by:

  • The construction and maintenance of ski resorts and roads
  • Grazing and trampling by exotic herbivores such as feral horses and cattle
  • Previous fires (parts of the Bogong High Plains were burnt in 2003 and 2006/07)
  • Because Alpine She-oak Skinks are only found in alpine environments, they are also likely to be affected by climate change. 

Saving the Alpine She-oak Skink

Zoos Victoria is working to change the fate of threatened species and is committed to Fighting Extinction – we will ensure that no more Victorian terrestrial vertebrate species become extinct.

Zoos Victoria is planning to develop captive-breeding and husbandry protocols for the Alpine She-oak Skink. We will then be able to help rescue and recover this species if there is a serious and immediate threat to a wild population (such as a bushfire).

How can you help?

  • Reduce your carbon footprint – Switch off your lights, and walk or ride to work.  Global warming is likely to severely affect alpine environments through changes in temperature and decreased snowfall and rainfall.  Doing your bit by reducing carbon emissions will help protect alpine species such as the Alpine She-oak Skink and Mountain Pygmy-possum.
  • Visit one of our three zoos - Zoos Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation - we rely on the support of our visitors and members. By visiting Healesville Sanctuary, Melbourne Zoo or Werribee Open Range Zoo, you will be supporting our work to fight extinction.
  • Act Wild - Join the growing number of wild activists taking action for local wildlife. You can get grubby, get creative and find out about local conservation events

Plans and publications

Alpine She-oak Skink

Master of mystery for the Extinction Fighters

Found: hiding under rocks at high altitudes

Using her power of mystery and disguise, she can out-smart her enemies. She may appear in any place at any time.

Meet all priority native threatened species

Zoos Victoria plans to save this endangered animal.

See all of our 21 priority threatened native species.


Preparing our skinks for their big winter sleep

Did you know that we have some very special species at Healesville Sanctuary that hibernate?

The Sanctuary is home to two very special hibernating skink species, the Guthega and Alpine She-Oak Skinks, and our keepers are starting their winter preparation this weekend.

5 June 2017
404 Young Emu Healesville Sanctuary web620

15 Surprising Facts About Our Aussie Animals

You probably know emus can’t fly, but did you know they can’t walk backwards? Here are 15 surprising facts about our Aussie animals that you probably didn’t know…

29 May 2017
  • Alpine She-oak Skinks will imitate a snake if threatened - pulling their legs in close to their body and flicking their tongue.