Forest fires pose a threat to most animal species. But for one rare lizard living on a rocky island in the sky, just one case could be enough to erase their view from the planet. Only recently, her appearance was scientifically described, and now it is under threat, reports The Conversation.
It is believed that the skink of the Kaputar cliff (Egernia roomi) has one of the smallest reptile habitats in New South Wales – on top of one extinct volcano, Mount Kaputar.
The existence of this mysterious skink (the species of lizards) has been unofficially known for decades, and last August this species was finally scientifically described. But, months later, he may already be threatened with extinction.
At the end of last year, forest fires entered more than half of the Egernia roomi habitat. Scientists are not yet sure how this will affect his survival, but the prospects are most favorable.
The skink cliffs of Kaputar are a beautiful lizard, usually about 10 centimeters in length, with dark chocolate brown and grayscales and an orange belly.
The narrow cliff at the top of the mountain, more than 1300 meters above sea level, has become home to this species. High elevations are colder than the surrounding plains, which is ideal for this cool-looking view. But its tiny habitat means that it is very vulnerable. When danger appears, the lizards from the cliff of Kaputar have nowhere to go.
In October and November of last year, forest fires passed through the Nandevar ranges. They reportedly burned over 17,000 hectares of shrubbery. It is believed that more than half of the skinks inhabited there have been burned.
A panel of experts advising the federal government on forest fire restoration has identified this lizard id as one of 119 heavily damaged species requiring urgent conservation intervention. But the distant habitat of the skinks, coupled with the limitations of COVID-19, did not allow scientists to assess the degree of damage.
It is likely that many skinks from Kaputar died during the fires themselves, although the scientific community hopes that some of the lizards survived by penetrating deep into the stone cracks.
But even after the cessation of fires, the threat to the existence of the species remains. Loss of vegetation can make skinks more vulnerable – they cannot get enough food.