These Baby Alpine She-oak Skinks are Teeny Tiny Treasures

04 March 2020

In a world-first, Healesville Sanctuary successfully bred the endangered Alpine She-oak Skinks in captivity.

Four beautiful and rare baby skinks of a species affected by the recent bushfires have been born at Healesville Sanctuary in a major win for the Sanctuary’s captive breeding program.

The births mark the first time the endangered Alpine She-oak Skink has been bred in captivity.

Healesville Sanctuary Threatened Species Life Sciences Manager Monika Zabinskas says the baby reptiles, weighing only a few grams each, have just received their two-month health check to ensure they are healthy and developing properly.

“Being able to successfully breed (these animals) in captivity is a great achievement for us,” Ms Zabinskas said.

Ms Zabinskas says not much was known about breeding the endangered skinks before the Zoos Victoria breeding program began in 2012.

A baby Alpine She-oak Skink is measured.
The baby Alpine She-oak Skinks are measured in their first health check.

Zoo staff worked with other experts, including the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research, to crack the difficult problem.

“We had to develop the husbandry methods and techniques to maintain and reproduce the species in captivity,” said Ms Zabinskas.

“The broader goal is to work with external partners to create an emergency response plan for the skinks.

We hope the breeding program can support wild recovery efforts.”

The Alpine She-oak Skink is one of 27 priority threatened species in Zoos Victoria’s Wildlife Conservation Master Plan.

In the wild, Alpine She-oak Skinks live entirely in alpine and sub-alpine areas of NSW and Victoria that were devastated by this summer’s extreme bushfires.

Fire is a huge danger to the Alpine She-Oak Skink, killing individuals and destroying the low-lying vegetation they live among. Any survivors of the initial blaze are then vulnerable to predators. The skinks are also threatened by habitat destruction and climate change.