Lucy the Lizard saved from certain death

2015-12-14 15:01
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Mbombela - A female Sungazer lizard has found a new home in the Pretoria Zoo after a farmer saved it from becoming roadkill.

Jan Venter saw the lizard in the road on his way to do some shopping in Volksrust, Mpumalanga, on November 27. On his way back, he noticed the reptile had barely moved.

"I know about the dangers facing Sungazers. It was a beautiful lizard and would most likely have been squashed by a car, so I decided to rescue it," said Venter.

He put the lizard into a shoebox and took it to a vet. Bradley Gibbons, an Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) field officer, received word of the lizard.

"There are two Sungazer colonies in that area and the lizard was very far away from both of them. It is obvious that it wanted to be away from the others. It may have been looking for a new friend," said Gibbons.

The EWT established the Sungazer Lizard Project to protect colonies of the extraordinary reptiles, found only in sensitive grassland habitats in the Free State and Mpumalanga.

Gibbons said that Sungazers, which were covered in spiky scales, were a unique species.

"While other lizards prefer rocks, Sungazers are burrowers and require a very specific type of soil in patchy grasslands, staying in colonies of up to 60 individuals. Once their ecosystems are disturbed by mining and agriculture, they are virtually guaranteed to die," said Gibbons.

As the lizards were highly territorial, there was a chance the Sungazer would be killed if it was introduced into the wrong colony, so a decision was made to take it to the Pretoria Zoo to enter a breeding programme.

Chris de Beer, the Pretoria Zoo's reptile curator, said he was excited to receive the lizard, which had been named Lucy.

"It is extremely difficult to relocate such an animal, but we are keeping a close eye on her. It is extremely difficult for us to say why she left her colony, but at least she will be part of a new family here," said De Beer.

Lucy would remain in quarantine for 30 days, after which she would join her new family of 11 Sungazer lizards. De Beer hoped they would be able to breed with her in captivity.

"Until now Lucy has been doing very well in the zoo and we are very happy for our new member," he said. 

Read more on:    pretoria  |  animals

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