This ‘extinct’ earless dragon lizard has been spotted after 50 years missing. But researchers won’t say where.
A tiny earless dragon which experts thought was extinct has been spotted for the first time in over 50 years.
The Victorian grassland earless dragon - native to east Australian grasslands - was last spotted in the wild in 1969.
Once common in the area, its numbers plummeted due to habitat loss and predators like foxes and feral cats.
Conservationists feared for the animal’s survival and previously made “considerable but unsuccessful efforts” to locate the species.
Now, they’ve discovered a small population - but the exact rediscovery location is being kept a secret to protect the surviving animals.
“This is an amazing discovery and offers an opportunity for us to recover a species once thought lost to our state and the world,” said Victorian environment minister Ingrid Stitt.
What is the Victorian grassland earless dragon?
Australia has more than 70 different dragon species.
The Victorian grassland earless dragon lacks an external ear opening - hence the name - and measures just 15cm from head to tail when fully grown.
Now that conservationists have rediscovered the lizard, they’re keen not to lose it again.
Zoos Victoria is also establishing a dedicated breeding program to ensure the lizard’s survival in the future.
The animal is listed as critically endangered under the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act and the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
What other ‘extinct’ species have been rediscovered?
The earless dragon is not the first species to ‘come back from the dead’.
Dozens of species have been rediscovered after decades without a sighting.
In 2019, scientists were overjoyed to find a rare species of giant tortoise last spotted in 1906.
This Galápagos Island tortoise was confirmed to be a chelonoidis phantasticus - better known as the ‘fantastic giant tortoise’ - in 2022.
In the same year, scientists rediscovered the adorable Silver-backed Chevrotain, also known as the deer mouse.