A new home and world first micro-chipping for western spiny-tailed skinks

Campbell Jones, a farmer in the Wyalkatchem area, contacted me after he had seen an article in the Farmers Weekly about the work that the Healthy Bushland team (WWF, Wheatbelt NRM and Greening Australia WA), was doing to help a Bencubbin farmer restore some habitat around a family of western spiny-tailed skinks.

Adult male western spiny-tailed skink, April 4th © WWF/Mike Griffiths

Campbell had previously recorded populations of the endangered western spiny-tailed skink on his property and contacted me to see if we could help with some fencing, restoration and revegetation around them.

I spent a day with Campbell looking around his property and showing him how to read the signs that western spiny-tailed skinks are present without an actual sighting, looking for scats up on piles of timber or tin and the classic latrine near their homes. We looked at some fencing that would keep the stock out of an area that we knew skinks were in and also some areas to revegetate. All in all a great day.

A week later Campbell called again, concerned about a wood pile that was in an area on his property that they had built a feed lot in. They were about to burn the wood pile when Campbell looked at it with fresh eyes and spotted skink scats everywhere.

After some talks with the Department of Environment and Conservation it was decided an emergency relocation was the best course of action.

So two weeks ago, with all the permits ok’d we converged on the site. We started carefully pulling apart the wood pile piece by piece. It seemed like we had only just started when the first call went up, “there’s one” and then another and then another. The excitement rose as we began to find babies as well.

Nyungar Trainee with 2 baby western spiny-tailed skinks Wheatbelt SWAE © WWF/Mike Griffiths

Close up of 2 baby spiny-tailed skinks Wheatbelt SWAE, © WWF/Mike Griffiths

Ten western spiny-tailed skinks in all, three adult and seven beautiful little babies. These were all carefully boxed and taken to a sheltered area to be micro chipped, weighed and measured before they were returned to their new home.

Two adult spiny-tailed-skink, Wheatbelt, Southwest Australia Ecoregion © WWF/Mike Griffiths

So while those that were qualified and some that were just interested attended to the western spiny-tailed skinks, the others set about reconstructing their home in a lovely sheltered spot in some nearby bush.

The skinks were all released safely, with their new microchips in place that will allow monitoring now and in the future – monitoring that will hopefully give us some answers about the unknown behaviours of these amazing little critters.

Nearly two weeks since the relocation, and several adult and juvenile western spiny-tailed skinks have already been recorded on sensor camera!

A huge thank you to all those who helped!

Dismantling the old wood pile. From left to right Tessa Moore, Sue Carter (just behind the post), Hettie Moore, Mick Davis, Mike Griffiths, Brandon Colbung, Natasha Moore, Judd Davis, James Haberfield and Rob Harvey. © WWF/Mike Griffiths





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  • Phil Lewis About Phil Lewis

    The call of the country runs strong in Phil. He has worked with livestock on distant sheep stations, in market gardens, on mines far out in the wilds of Western Australia and in the rural back blocks with the WA Water Corporation. But Phil has always been drawn to wildlife and has a keen hands-on understanding of the species that remain in Southwest Australia’s Wheatbelt region. Phil lives on a bush block just outside of the central Wheatbelt town of Wyalkatchem near the unrealised town site of Korrelocking. Together with his wife they’ve single handedly identified most of the birds and plants that inhabit their surrounding bushland. Having lived in the central Wheatbelt now for over 10 years, Phil’s existing networks and pragmatic down-to-earth approach to conservation have made him a key WWF asset in negotiating conservation outcomes (including conservation covenants) with many farmers across the Wheatbelt. “I know I’m not going to change the world but I feel great sense of achievement when I am able to support and encourage landholders to fence off and manage their well-loved bushland. It makes you feel like you’re doing something worthwhile,” Phil said. In his spare time, when Phil isn’t bird-watching, capturing rare images of equally rare fauna through WWF’s sensor camera program, or even investigating cryptic trapdoor spider burrow entrances, you can find Phil out the back tending his weird breeds of chickens or talking them up at the local Ag Show. View all posts by Phil Lewis →
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