Sunday, 10 December 2017

Whodunnit', as Aussie reptiles go extinct: study (Update)


December 5, 2017

Three species of reptile on Australia's Christmas Island have been declared extinct in the wild, according to a study released on Tuesday, with scientists baffled as to the cause.

Lister's gecko, the blue-tailed skink and the Christmas Island forest-skink were downgraded from "critically endangered" to "extinct in the wild" in the latest report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"The extinctions... are an intriguing 'whodunnit', as their cause remains unclear," said John Woinarski, professor of conservation biology at Charles Darwin University in northern Australia.

The reptile population on Christmas Island, an Australian territory just south of Indonesia, has been declining rapidly since the 1970s, the IUCN said.

While scientists speculate that a snake introduced in the 1980s or environmental changes following the introduction of the Yellow Crazy Ant could be to blame, "the reason for the decline remains unclear," according to the report.

Scientists tried in vain to establish a captive breeding programme for the forest skink and it has now been declared extinct in the wild.

Lister's gecko and the blue-tailed skink both have "well-established" captive breeding populations but are now also extinct in the wild.

"In this case, the extent and severity of decline was revealed too late to save these Christmas Island reptiles," said Woinarski.


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