Thesis: Evaluating conservation management options for two ‘Extinct in the Wild’ reptiles on Christmas Island: The blue-tailed skink (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) and Lister’s gecko (Lepidodactylus listeri
My research will focus on the conservation management of two Critically Endangered reptiles endemic to Christmas Island: the blue tailed skink (Cryptoblepharus egeriae) and Lister’s gecko (Lepidodactylus listeri). Both species suffered significant declines as a result of introduced predators and narrowly avoided extinction by being brought into captivity, and now exist only as two captive populations. Captive breeding has been very successful to the point that the captive breeding facility on Christmas Island is at capacity. My proposed project will develop and assess the potential reintroduction and assisted colonisation options on Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and aims to understand how translocations can be made most likely to succeed for these two species.
Why my research is important
Islands are some of the most distinct and ecologically vulnerable systems on earth. Ninety percent of all reptile extinctions have occurred on islands due to habitat loss, introduced species, and disease. Paradoxically, islands also present unique opportunities ecological restoration and improving the conservation outcomes for many threatened species through the use of conservation translocations.
The blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko are arguably Australia’s two most threatened reptiles, restricted to two captive populations on Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo. Both species are endemic to Christmas Island located 2700km North West of Perth and suffered significant population declines as a result of the introduced wolf snake, and are now considered Extinct in the Wild. Captive breeding has prevented extinction, however urgent conservation options in the context of conservation translocations need to be assessed and evaluated. This study will develop and assess potential reintroduction and assisted colonisation options on Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands. My project will design and monitor trial reintroductions with the aim of developing reintroduction protocols that optimise the survival and growth of translocated populations. Additionally, through assessing potential options for re-establishing semi-wild and/or wild populations of blue-tailed skinks (and, where possible, Lister’s geckos), this research will be critical to the conservation future of these two species.