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Landscape at Evelyn Downs. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Landscape at Evelyn Downs. Photo Annette Ruzicka.

Rare reptiles & delicate daisies

Published 11 Dec 2023

Fauna and flora monitoring. That will be one of the first jobs at Evelyn Downs

Why? Because among the pastel-coloured cliffs, the gibber and stony plains, acacia woodlands and creeklines, are numerous native species. They scurry in the leaf litter and grow in the gullies and soft soils of Breakaway country. 

Many have evolved with this land over millennia, but now their populations are in decline and limited to small arid-zone areas that are drastically underrepresented in the national reserve system. 

The more we know about them, the better the chance we have to protect them…. So, let us introduce you to two!

Ecologist Graeme Finlayson inspecting plants

Is it a snake? Is it a lizard? 

No, it’s a Bronzeback Snake-Lizard

Australia is described as a diversity hotspot for reptiles. From the coast to the country, scaly vertebrates are found in all different sizes. More than 90% of our reptiles are found nowhere else in the world, but their story is one of decline – many of our unique reptiles are at risk of extinction, such as the Bronzeback Snake-Lizard, which is listed as vulnerable on the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Bronzeback Snake-lizard. Photo Shane Black.

With its rich fawn-coloured body, pale-grey head and greyish-brown belly, it grows to around 10cm, and blends secretively in layers of loose sandy loam and decomposed litter – often along the temporary watercourses that flow out of the stony tablelands and breakaways found on Evelyn Downs. This leaf litter is its habitat and is key to its survival, helping it secure prey. 

It faces the threats of overgrazing, soil compaction, erosion and flooding across much of its small area of distribution.

One of the our tools in our survival kit is monitoring. Like many at-risk reptiles, little conservation action has historically been taken because not much is known about this species' behaviour or distribution. We have a chance to change that. If we purchase Evelyn Downs, we can undertake research into the numbers of the species, and the role of drought and flood ecology across the 235,000-hectare reserve. And, importantly, we can limit invasive species that jeopardise the snake-lizard's chances of survival.

These are the ‘daisies’ of our lives

A symbol of joy. That’s what some people think of when they think of daisies, a crown atop a child’s head frolicking through the fields. At Evelyn Downs, the Arckaringa Daisy (Olearia arckringensis) brings a whole new meaning to ‘joy’. It’s a species endemic to the Arckaringa Hills in north South Australia and, like its snake-lizard counterpart, is found in Breakaways and Stony Plains.

Arckaringa Daisy. Photo Kristian Bell.

It’s listed as endangered under the EPBC Act and an estimated 250–1000 of these flowers exist in the world. So, it brought joy to our ecologists when they learnt that it could be found on Evelyn Downs, in the soft, eroding slopes of the Breakaway escarpment and in the low open woodlands.

It too is threatened by overgrazing and trampling, as well as erosion and flooding. But it too, has a chance of survival.

At Evelyn Downs, we would be able to collaborate with regional experts to search the reserve, discover and monitor unmapped populations – plus, explore strategies such as mesh exclusion cages and even seed propagation to help these delicate flowers to be robust.

Help us by our largest reserve yet to protect these species.

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