Christmas Island Reptiles

Captive Breeding Facilities

  • YEAR: 2013
  • STATE: Australian Capital Territory
  • FOCUS AREAS: Saving Species/SDG 15: Life on Land

Thanks to your support, reptile species only found on Christmas Island are being saved from extinction through a captive breeding program established in 2009. Since then, FNPW and our supporters have funded two projects in 2013 and 2015 to house the growing reptile populations.

The building of a new reptile housing facility and the construction of eight predator-proof enclosures on the island, funded by a FNPW grant in 2013. The facilities allowed endemic skink and gecko populations to increase, safe from introduced predators like cats, centipedes and wolf snakes. The enclosures hold up to 1,000 skinks.

FNPW support

This project was funded through generous donations from FNPW supporters across Australia and beyond.

Project overview

Christmas Island National Park’s captive breeding facility is known as the Lizard Lodge. The enclosures of the Lizard Lodge hold almost every blue-tailed skink and Lister’s gecko known to exist. There’s a much smaller breeding population at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, but this facility, in the lizards’ native environment, represents their last, best hope for survival.

Christmas Island was once home to five endemic reptiles, but today it’s quite possible that only one of these species survives in the wild. What is known is that small-island populations are hit hard by introduced pests and diseases. Prior to the late 1880s, people rarely visited remote Christmas Island, and never permanently settled. But when people eventually did stay to mine the island’s phosphate, they brought with them a range of invasive hitchhikers. After millions of years evolving in isolation, the island’s endemic reptiles suddenly had company. Five new non-native reptiles arrived, among them the voracious wolf snake, as well as a cadre of other aggressors, including yellow crazy ants and giant centipedes.

The Lizard Lodge was built in 2014 as a safe place for the remaining lizards, with enclosures free from predation and carefully furnished to make the inhabitants feel at home. Since 2009, these captive populations have dramatically increased and now can’t all be held within the existing facilities. The expansion project was undertaken in 2015 with funding from FNPW. Within each tank are arranged sticks, rocks and sheets of bark for the lizards to lounge upon. There are also small wooden boxes, about the size of a deck of cards, crafted to mimic the nooks and crannies of the island’s porous limestone.

Local community and tourists have been involved through educational, photography, and volunteering activities. Before this expansion, captive populations had reached a peak number that could be protected within the existing facilities. Now new enclosures mean reptile populations can continue to grow and, once threats have been mitigated, they’ll be released into the wild.

Christmas Island Skink

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF COUNTRY

FNPW supports projects across Australia. In the spirit of reconciliation we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture.

PROGRESS OF THIS PROJECT

The project was completed in 2015.

Protection of Christmas Island skinks and other reptiles was funded by FNPW in 2013 & 2015.

Christmas Island construction of reptile enclosure

PROJECT PARTNERS

Parks Australia: Christmas Island National Park is the lead organisation for this project.

Further information about our project partner can be found on their website:

https://parksaustralia.gov.au/christmas

Related Projects

Green Parrot

Degraded habitat will be restored on Phillip Island due to the construction of an on-island nursery for endemic and threatened plants. A sense of ownership will grow as community members participate in running the nursery, propagating, and planting on Phillip Island. Before this, Phillip Island (6 km off Norfolk Island) was been stripped of plants and topsoil by introduced rabbits, pigs, and goats.

Aussie Ark Quolls

The Eastern quoll project has been highly successful, starting with 20 individuals in early 2018, with an aim of reaching 70 individuals and doubling our holding enclosures at Aussie Ark.

Devil Ark

Captive breeding programs are saving the Tasmanian Devils from the brink of extinction. As one of the largest living carnivorous marsupials in the world, the endemic Australian animal once roamed throughout mainland Australia...

1 Million Turtles

Over the last 40 years, the most common and widespread species of Murray River turtles have declined by up to 91%. The 1 Million Turtles Project will create the blueprint for “headstarting” as an inexpensive landscape-scale approach to conservation.

Red-Tailed Phascogale

The Red-Tailed Phascogale (Phascogale calura) was once wide-spread across southern Australia, but is now limited to a ‘triangle’ in south-west WA. Loss of habitat (wandoo / sheoak woodland) and predation by feral and domestic cats have been catastrophic for the species. It is listed as Endangered under the EPBC Act.