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Searching for skinks on the Newnes Plateau

Researchers and Local Land Services staff have pulled on their gumboots to search swamps on the Newnes Plateau near Lithgow for a very special lizard found only in the Blue Mountains.

“This is the first stage in a 10 year monitoring and rehabilitation project aimed at protecting the Blue Mountains Water Skink through the ‘Swamped by Threats’ project,” explained Marg Duffy from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“The skinks depend on healthy upland swamps for their survival, but the swamps themselves are under threat and the skinks are in danger of extinction.”

The Blue Mountains Water Skink is listed as a threatened species which can be found in fewer than 60 swampland sites across the Blue Mountains, from the Newnes Plateau in the north west to Hazelbrook in the south east.

Assisted by Land Services Staff, species specialist Dr Sarsha Gorissen has been gathering data on skink numbers at key habitat sites.

“Sarsha uses specially designed traps to capture the skinks, which are then released on the same day after they are weighed and measured,” said Ms Duffy.

“This data will give us more accurate information about the skinks and we’ll continue to monitor them over a ten year period to see how the population is tracking. It would be wonderful to see numbers increase as threats are controlled and habitat protection methods are implemented.”  
The key threat facing the skink is loss of swamp habitat from impacts including climate change, a loss of ground water resources, storm water runoff causing erosion and pollution, weed incursion and fire.

Senior Land Services Officer, Huw Evans, says predation by feral animals such as cats and foxes is also thought to be a threat.

“Sensor cameras are being used to monitor swamp sites for feral animal activity,” said Mr Evans. “We want to get an understanding of the species and numbers of feral animals around the swamps and whether they pose a threat to the Skink.”

This year on the Newnes Plateau the Swamped by Threats project will fund weed control and erosion control works to reduce sediment flow into swamp sites, such as a possible re-engineering of roads near the zig zag railway to slow and redirect runoff after heavy rainfall.

A community information day is planned in May 2017 for people interested in joining a new Swampcare group and for those who just want to learn more about our upland swamps.

Local Land Services is inviting members of the public keen to get involved to fill in the Swampcare Volunteer Form online.

For more information contact Marg Duffy at marg.duffy@lls.nsw.gov.au or phone the Lithgow office of Local Land Services on 02 6350 3113.

The ‘Swamped by Threats’ project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through Local Land Services and Environmental Trust Saving Our Species Partnership Grants Program.

Central Tablelands Local Lands Services is the lead agency in the project working with stakeholders, community groups, and project partners including the Office of Environment and Heritage, Greater Sydney Local Lands Services, Lithgow City Council, Blue Mountains City Council, Forestry Corporation, National Parks and Wildlife Service and, Lithgow and Oberon Landcare Association.

Media enquiries: Kylie Krause | 0439 608370