Thought Extinct in the Wild, Earless Dragon Rediscovered in Australia
The Victorian grassland earless dragon, not seen in the wild since 1969, has been rediscovered, Australian officials said.
“This is an amazing discovery and offers an opportunity for us to recover a species once thought lost to our state and the world,” Victoria’s environment minister, Ingrid Stitt, said in a statement.
The earless dragon, which measures roughly six inches long, is so named because it lacks an ear opening and a functional ear drum. It was once common in the grasslands near Melbourne, but its numbers dwindled as the city and farms expanded and foxes and feral cats hunted the creature.
To keep the newly discovered dragons safe, officials are not sharing their location. Zoos Victoria, which has been searching for the dragon since 2017, will establish a breeding program to buoy the reptile’s numbers, while the governments of Australia and the state of Victoria will invest $188,000 in a program that uses trained dogs to track down more earless dragons.
“The dragon’s long-term fate depends on managing the site where it was found and any areas nearby where dragons are living,” Australian scientists Brendan Wintle and Sarah Bekessy wrote in The Conversation. “Research tells us we need at least six independent, self-sustaining populations for the dragon to stand a chance of persisting for at least the next 50 years.”