We uncover beautiful threatened species as part of the latest Bush Blitz survey in Mungo National Park
Bush Blitz brings together teams of scientists working on different fauna and flora groups to survey Australia’s remote wilderness. The program aims to both find new species and better understand already known species, and has resulted in 1350 new species being found so far. In late August, Bush Blitz focused its attention on Mungo National Park of the southwest NSW mallee region, a park that is well known for its cultural and archaeological significance. Adding to the parks significance the team surveyed the plants, arachnids, insects and reptiles of the park, with the herpetology team uncovering some stunning animals, including one very beautiful threatened species.
Mungo National Park covers 1,110 square kilometers of important semi-arid habitat including mallee spinifex woodland, sand dunes and three large chenopod lakes which the herpetology team searched for reptiles such as geckos, skinks and dragons. Over six days we were assisted by BHP Billiton employees (through Earthwatch), national parks staff and world heritage rangers to search for reptiles in all manner of places across the park.
Despite cold weather a total of 20 reptile species and one species of frog were located. These finds included the brightly coloured male Painted Dragon (Ctenophorus pictus) which become vivid in spring to attract a mate, and Butler’s Legless Lizard (Delma butleri), a type of legless geckos that inhabits spinifex areas across Australia.
A highlight of the trip was finding a good population of the threatened Jewelled Gecko (Strophurus elderi), which has been listed as Vulnerable in NSW due to habitat clearing, fire impacts and feral predators. The dependence on spinifex habitat of several of the species found including the Jewelled Gecko show the importance of Mungo National park in protecting this habitat.
The more information we have about threatened species populations the better we can protect them, and the efforts of Bush Blitz to survey remote bushland are vital in informing management and conservation efforts towards helping amazing species like the Jewelled Gecko. The wide reaching efforts of Bush Blitz across Australia have also brought a focus on our understanding of more common species. In many instances what we thought was one widespread common species is being unveiled as several nearly unique species. We never know which of the common species we found at Mungo may help to unravel a better understanding of Australia’s diverse reptile fauna overall.
Understanding the diversity and distribution of reptiles and other fauna at Mungo National Park helps to inform planning decisions that will protect the natural value of this unique and beautiful landscape. The role of Bush Blitz in uncovering the hidden diversity of Australia’s animals makes it uniquely valuable to conserving Australia’s species.
Stephen Mahony, Technical Officer, Herpetology, AMRI
Christopher Portway, Herpetology Research Assistant, AMRI