Biodiversity

Species Profile and Threats Database


For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
 
In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.

EPBC Act Listing Status Listed as Vulnerable
Recovery Plan Decision Recovery Plan required, this species had a recovery plan in force at the time the legislation provided for the Minister to decide whether or not to have a recovery plan (19/2/2007).
 
Adopted/Made Recovery Plans National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
 
Other EPBC Act Plans Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzp) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2008zzq) [Threat Abatement Plan].
 
Policy Statements and Guidelines Referral guidelines for the striped legless lizard, Delma impar (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011f) [Admin Guideline].
 
Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened reptiles. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.6 (Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC), 2011m) [Admin Guideline].
 
Federal Register of
    Legislative Instruments
Declaration under s178, s181, and s183 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - List of threatened species, List of threatened ecological communities and List of threatening processes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2000) [Legislative Instrument].
 
State Government
    Documents and Websites
ACT:Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar). Action Plan No. 2 (ACT Government, 1997g) [State Action Plan].
ACT:A Vision Splendid of the Grassy Plains Extended: ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy (ACT Government, 2005a) [State Action Plan].
ACT:Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) (ACT Government, 2006a) [Information Sheet].
NSW:New South Wales Murray Biodiversity Management Plan (Murray Catchment Management Authority (Murray CMA), 2012) [State Action Plan].
NSW:Striped Legless Lizard - profile (NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW DECC), 2005am) [Internet].
VIC:Striped Legless Lizard prescription - Melbourne Strategic Assessment (Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic. DSE), 2010c) [Management Plan].
VIC:Striped Legless Lizard Salvage Operational Plan (March 2011) - Melbourne Strategic Assessment (Victoria Department of Sustainability and Environment (Vic. DSE), 2011) [Management Plan].
VIC:Flora & Fauna Guarantee Action Statement no. 17: Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar (Webster, A., R. Fallu & K. Preece, 2003) [State Action Plan].
State Listing Status
ACT: Listed as Vulnerable (Nature Conservation Act 1980 (Australian Capital Territory): 2013 list)
NSW: Listed as Vulnerable (Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (New South Wales): December 2013 list)
SA: Listed as Endangered (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): June 2011 list)
VIC: Listed as Threatened (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (Victoria): February 2014 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Vulnerable (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
VIC: Listed as Endangered (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria: 2013 list)
Scientific name Delma impar [1649]
Family Pygopodidae:Squamata:Reptilia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Fischer,1882)
Infraspecies author  
Reference  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

The Striped Legless Lizard is a well-defined species within a well-defined genus containing 17 species (Cogger 1992).

The Striped Legless Lizard is a member of the family Pygopodidae, the legless or flap-footed lizards (Cogger 1992). As with other members of the legless lizard family, Striped Legless Lizards lack forelimbs and have only very reduced hind limbs. These hind limbs are apparent only as small flaps on either side of the vent. Superficially, these animals resemble snakes, but can be readily distinguished from the latter by the presence of external ear openings, a fleshy undivided tongue and a tail which is longer than the body (Cogger 1992). Striped Legless Lizards can be readily distinguished from other legless lizards by body colouration, body size and head scalation.

The Striped Legless Lizard is a pale-grey lizard up to 30 cm in length, with a maximum snout-vent length (SVL) of about 12 cm. Striped Legless Lizards have a long thin body and the tail, when unbroken, is about twice the length of the body. They have a series of stripes on their sides and the sides of their back, becoming diagonal bands on the tail (Cogger 1992; Wilson & Knowles 1988). These stripes are dark-brown or blackish and extend the whole length of the individual from the neck to the tail. Each stripe has individual black-centered scales. However, in some individuals, particularly juveniles, these stripes may be very faint or absent. The head is generally darker than the body, tending to black in juveniles. The underside of Striped Legless Lizards is whitish and they have a blunt snout (Cogger 2000). The sexes of Striped Legless Lizards appear very similar externally. However, adult males may be distinguished by the presence of a small rounded 'spur' under each hind limb flap (M.A. Rauhala 1998, pers. comm.).

There is significant variation in the size of Striped Legless Lizards in different populations in Victoria. A study at Dashwood found the modal size class to be 6.0–6.9 g, while a study at Derrimut Grassland Reserve reported the modal size class to be 3.0–4.1 g (Coulson 1990; Kutt 1992). The modal size class of Striped Legless Lizards captured at the Keilor Plains site was 6.0–6.9 g. Some generations (size classes) appeared to be uncommon, suggesting that recruitment may be low in some years (O'Shea 1996). Observations of captive animals suggest that Striped Legless Lizards may skip reproduction when not in prime condition (J. Birkett n.d., pers. comm., cited in O'Shea 1996).

Distribution

The Striped Legless Lizard was formerly distributed throughout temperate lowland grasslands in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the south-western slopes and southern tablelands of New South Wales (NSW), central and southern Victoria, and the south-eastern corner of South Australia (SA) (Cogger et al. 1993). The distribution of the species has declined, with many known sites no longer supporting populations (Smith & Robertson 1999). Due to habitat fragmentation the remaining populations are probably small and isolated (Webster et al. 2003).

In NSW, the species occurs at sites near Goulburn, Yass, Queanbeyan, Cooma and Tumut areas (Coulson 1995; NSW DECC 2005am). The formerly continuous distribution in the ACT has been reduced to four discrete areas: Gungahlin, the lower Majura Valley (including the suburb of Lawson), the lower Jerrabomberra Valley and Yarramundi Reach (Coulson 1995; Dorrough 1995; McElhinney 2002). The population at Yarramundi Reach may have become extinct (ACT Government 2005a).

The range of the Striped Legless Lizard in Victoria appears to have contracted to the southern part of the state (Cogger et al. 1993), with extant populations known from the outer western and northern suburbs of Melbourne, near Cressy in the western district, Derrimut Grasslands Reserve, Dashwood (Cogger et al. 1993; Coulson 1995; Webster et al. 2003; Smith & Robertson 1999; Whitby 1995), Merton, Alexandra, Molesworth and Yea (Anon. 2002a). The species was recently recorded on the new section of the Calder Highway from Kyneton to Ravenswood (Victoria). The species is no longer found in the inner metropolitan areas of Melbourne (Cogger et al. 1993).

The species was believed to be extinct in SA in 1993 (Cogger et al. 1993). However populations have been discovered in recent years at Lake Omerod and Hack's Lagoon Conservation Park, near Naracoorte (S. Milne 2001a, pers. comm.). An additional sighting on Kyby-Jesse Road in this area may have indicated an additional population. However, this site has since been destroyed (Milne 1999).

Extent of occurrence

The extent of occurrence of the Striped Legless Lizard is approximately 81 870 km², an area reaching from western SA, through southern Victoria and up through to the ACT and Goulburn in southern NSW. The Striped Legless Lizard is thought to have once extended further into SA (Cogger et al. 1993), thus its extent of occurrence has declined.

Area of occupancy

The total area of occupancy of the Striped Legless Lizard is unknown. However, there is some information on the density of the populations giving an indication of the area of occupancy. For example, the total population is spread across approximately ninety populations (Dorrough & Ash 1999; O'Shea 2005) and occurs in variable density across its range with estimates ranging from 10–40 individuals per hectare (ARAZPA 1996). One of the largest populations in Victoria occurs on the Keilor plains at St Albans, west of Melbourne. Distribution of individuals across this site was not random, with small communities forming within the available habitat (O'Shea 1996). Thus the area of occupancy for this species is likely to be influenced significantly by habitat suitability within its range, and is likely to be significantly less than the extent of occurrence.

Historically, the species has been recorded from 125 sites, of which at least 40 are estimated to still hold populations (ACT Government 1997g; Hadden 1995).

Captive populations

In 1999, a captive group of this species was being held at the Melbourne Zoo in Victoria. This group originated mostly from salvage operations performed prior to destruction of grassland sites for development. Another captive colony was proposed for the Animal House at Victoria University of Technology (Werribee), based on animals salvaged from the Albion grasslands (C. Hocking n.d., pers. comm., cited in Smith & Robertson 1999).

Captive breeding of Striped Legless Lizards was achieved at Melbourne Zoo in 1998, with three young successfully raised from captive matings (Banks et al. 1999). Additional eggs laid in captivity by wild-caught gravid females have been hatched and the juveniles raised (C. Banks et al. n.d., pers. comm., cited in Smith & Robertson 1999; Kukolic 1994). The Royal Melbourne Zoo is releasing Striped Legless Lizards back into the wild in the Organ Pipes National Park (Anon. 2002a).

Extensive surveys have been conducted in the ACT and Victoria, with surveys having been conducted in the ACT annually between 1989 and 1997 (ACT Government 1997g). In Victoria, survey efforts have concentrated in the Melbourne region and some areas in the west of the state. Broad surveys have been conducted in South Australia, which have not located the species (J. Foulkes n.d., pers. comm., cited in Smith & Robertson 1999). Additionally, a few targeted surveys have been conducted in NSW (Smith & Robertson 1999).

There are few population size estimates available for this species. Dorrough and Ash (1999) reported that less than 1000 individuals had been recorded from 90 sites in 1995, however more recent studies indicate that the population may be larger. A study of the species at Iramoo Wildlife Reserve near Melbourne has estimated the average population size to be approximately 600 which is considered to be an underestimate (O'Shea 2005). Thus the total number of individuals of this species is unknown, but likely to be in excess of 1000 individuals.

A population at Dashwood (Victoria) was estimated to consist of 220 individuals in 1995 (Whitby 1995). The population density at a site on the Keilor Plains at St. Albans, west of Melbourne, was approximately 10 Striped Legless Lizards per hectare in 1996, with a total of 68 individuals captured. Densities of between 10–40 per hectare were estimated, also in 1996, at a site near Ravenhall (ARAZPA 1996). Of the seven sites currently known to support the species in NSW, two are on private land, one on private rural-residential land, one on council-owned land, two on land managed by the Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB), and one on land owned by the NSW DECCW. The sites in Victoria outside reserves are on a variety of government and private land, including many rural properties. The sites outside the Gunghalin Reserve in the ACT are on a mix of private leasehold, military, ACT government and Commonwealth government land (Smith & Robertson 1999).

Important populations
Populations with large numbers of individuals are known from Iramoo Wildlife Reserve, near Melbourne, with at least 600 individuals (O'Shea 2005), Dashwood (Victoria) which was estimated to have 220 individuals (Whitby 1995), and the Keilor Plains, west of Melbourne (O'Shea 1996). These populations are considered important for the species' long-term survival and recovery.

Striped Legless Lizards occur within four reserves in Victoria; Derrimut Grassland Reserve, Iramoo Wildlife Reserve, Terrick-Terrick National Park (north of Bendigo) and Craigieburn Grasslands (north of Melbourne). In the ACT there are three separate, but abutting areas as part of the Gungahlin Grassland Reserve. In NSW, there is the Kuma Nature Reserve, near Cooma; and in SA there is the Lagoon Conservation Park (O'Shea 2005; Parks Victoria 2004a; S. Milne 2001a, pers. comm.; Smith & Robertson 1999). These reserves cover more than 800 ha, e.g. Derrimut Grassland Reserve has an area of 150 ha, the Gungahlin Grassland Reserve covers an area of 500 ha and the Kuma Nature Reserve encompasses an area of 180 ha (O'Shea 2005; Parks Victoria 2004a; S. Milne 2001a, pers. comm.; Smith & Robertson 1999).

Striped Legless Lizards may use refuges within or adjoining their habitat when a fire goes through. For example, after fire this species may move into unburnt areas or remain relatively inactive in the soil or under rocks until the vegetation is able to recover enough to provide shelter (Smith & Robertson 1999).

The life span of the Striped Legless Lizard is estimated to be at least 10 years (Smith & Robertson 1999), with the age at first reproduction thought to be 2–3 years for males and 3–4 years for females (Smith & Robertson 1999). Their mating system is not clear and the Striped Legless Lizard is assumed to be polygynous, where males mate with more than one female in a single breeding season (Coulson 1990).

Typically, females lay two eggs in December and January and hatching occurs in January and February, 35–60 days after laying (Coulson 1995; Smith & Robertson 1999). It is believed most adult females are capable of breeding every year. There has been one recorded case of communal nesting, with six eggs found in a single nest (Coulson 1995). During November and December, adults are more active than at any other time of the year. This activity is thought to be related to mating and egg-laying requiring increased movements of both sexes (Kutt 1992).

Studies of the diet of the Striped Legless Lizard indicate that this species feeds primarily on spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, Lepidopteran larvae and cockroaches (Coulson 1990; Nunan 1995; Wainer 1992). Lepidopteran larvae appear to be particularly important in the diet of this species, and may play a role in limiting lizard abundance at some sites (Nunan 1995). The foraging mode of this species may alter according to prey types, indicating that Striped Legless Lizards use both ambush and active searching methods (Coulson 1995). However, active searching for prey on the surface is likely to be the predominant mode of foraging (Nunan 1995).

During winter months Striped Legless Lizards enter a state of torpor, although the exact timing and the torpor sites are mostly unknown (Smith & Robertson 1999). It has been found that animals in Victoria overwinter mostly in soil cracks, under/beside rocks and in tussock bases. In the ACT, however, it is assumed that grass tussocks provide the primary overwinter refuges. Activity peaks in spring and summer, particularly in November and December (Coulson 1995). During this period, the majority of foraging occurs during daylight hours (Coulson 1995; Webster et al. 2003).

Little is known about the habits and pattern of movements of this species, although some information has been gained from recapture data and from fluoro-dye tracking (Kukolic 1994; Kutt 1992; Rauhala 1996). Individuals have been recorded moving at least 20 m in one day (Kutt 1992), and up to 50 m over several weeks (K. Kukolic n.d., pers. comm., cited in Smith & Robertson 1999.). This implies that these animals may be relatively wide-ranging, supporting the belief that they are active hunters, at least some of the time (Nunan 1995). Most of the movement records are from the November and December high activity period, and may be due to reproductive activity rather than normal home range movements (Kutt 1992).

Striped Legless Lizards at the Keilor Plains site appeared to have small home ranges, with four of six recaptures occurring less than 10 m from the original capture site (O'Shea 1996).

Surveys for the Striped Legless Lizard can be problematic due to the cryptic nature of the species, as it may not be detected even when present at the site. Recapture rates of those individuals that have been caught are extremely low, but whether the low rate of recapture is a consequence of animal behaviour, inadequate trapping or marking, or a combination of all these factors is unknown (Smith & Robertson 1999), which in turn makes determining life history traits difficult and inhibits adequate survey planning.

Tracking of this species is also problematic and the Victorian Striped Legless Lizard Working Group trialled a harmonic radar diode in the related species D. inornata, but the technique was unsuccessful. Trials of microwave transponders and radioactive isotopes were to be conducted (Smith & Robertson 1999). Other techniques used to monitor this species include thread spool and fluorescent powder tracking (Kutt 1992) and trials were proposed in the recovery plan for heat branding and PIT tags. Freeze branding was shown to be unsuccessful at Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (Smith & Robertson 1999).

The guidelines below provide a guide for surveys aimed at determining the presence or absence of Striped Legless Lizards at a site. Once detected, survey effort should be adjusted appropriately to determine the relative distribution of the species on the site(s).

Surveys for the Striped Legless Lizard should be conducted from areas of relatively undisturbed native grasslands (including similar habitat connected or immediately adjacent to the site) with a dense cover of perennial tussock grasses, particularly Spear Grass (Stipa bigeniculata); Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra); Wallaby Grass (Austrodanthonia spp.); and tussock grasses (Poa spp.). It is also important to note that Striped Legless Lizards can occur in modified grassland areas dominated by weed species such as Chilean Needlegrass (Nassella neesiana); Toowoomba Canary-grass (Phalaris aquatica); and Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) and hence such areas may need to be surveyed.

A three-step survey protocol, outlined below, is recommended.

1. Desktop review
A search of relevant literature and Commonwealth and state/territory databases and maps will provide an indication of whether the species has been previously recorded on a particular site and the overall likelihood of the species occurring in the area.

2. Habitat assessments
Desktop and field assessments of the habitat on the site may provide further indication of the likely presence (or absence) of the species at a site by providing information on whether the site supports known or potentially suitable habitat for the species, distance to the nearest known site supporting the species and/or suitable habitat, and habitat connectivity within the site and to other areas surrounding the site.

3. Targeted field survey
Field surveys for the species should be undertaken during the active period of the species (between September and May). Some survey techniques (such as active searching) may be undertaken during the cooler months of the year, but often with less success. Surveys should target suitable habitat within the site. Reference sites may need to be monitored during the expected active period of the species and used to guide survey timing at the target site(s).

If the species is detected during a survey, all potentially suitable habitat at the site should be considered occupied by the species. All presence/absence data should be provided to a central repository (state environment agencies).

In areas with surface rock, artificial shelter site surveys or active searching should be the primary technique. In areas with little to no rocky habitat (such as the ACT), artificial shelter site surveys or pitfall trapping should be used in conjunction with hand searches around tussocks.

Rock turning can be detrimental to Striped Legless Lizard populations, especially when undertaken regularly. Therefore, this method should be used only when other methods are unavailable and it should never be employed for long-term monitoring.

Survey methods and effort for the Striped Legless Lizard

Artificial shelter site surveys (for example roof tiles)
  • Shelter sites installed at least three months prior to the initial survey/checks (that is, by June).
  • Typically in vegetated areas (not bare ground).
  • In Victoria the Department of Sustainability and Environment recommend at least six months of survey.
  • Tile grids consist of 50 tiles, at 5 m spacing between tiles, arranged in a grid of 10 tiles by five.
  • As a minimum, two tile grids for sites less than two hectares in size. One grid per three hectares for sites up to 30 hectares. 10 grids for sites greater than 30 hectares in size.
  • Grid orientation is important: grids should preferably be positioned on a northerly aspect.
  • Artificial shelter sites should be checked at least twice a month, and ideally once a week during spring to early summer (i.e. between early September to December). Shelter sites should not be checked more than once per week as this may lead to striped legless lizards abandoning the artificial shelters.
  • Shelter sites should be checked when ambient temperatures do not exceed 28oC. Grids may be checked during summer/autumn for the presence of shed skin.
  • Ensure clean-up of site post survey, including revegetation of bare ground resulting from tile use.
Active searching
  • Active searching (checks under surface rock and debris and around tussocks) can generally be undertaken throughout the year as long as any limitations with respect to this survey technique are clearly outlined.
  • Surveyors need to ensure that rocks, logs and other refugia are placed back in the same position. This technique has a low success rate, and usually leads to disturbance of refuge sites. It should only be used where necessary.
Pit-fall trapping
  • Typically in vegetated areas (not bare ground). Set traps in the areas of habitat most likely to contain the species.
  • Undertaken in warmer months (September to January).
  • Each pitfall should have a minimum drift line of 5 m.
  • Various pitfall configurations (for example single trap, line array, cross shaped array) can be used, but should include up to five pits per configuration.
  • As a minimum, two pitfall configurations per hectare for sites less than 25 hectares in size, with a minimum of 10 pitfall traps. At least 50 pitfall configurations for sites greater than 25 hectares in size.
  • Within the pitfall trap provide shelter (for example some leaf litter), a moist sponge to prevent dehydration, and create drainage holes.
  • Check daily for at least 10 days.
  • Considerations of potential disturbance to flora and habitat values as part of the initial installation process and daily checks.

The extent of natural temperate grassland, including those known to support the striped legless lizard, has declined severely across Australia (Carter et al. 2003). The loss and degradation of native grassland, through a variety of processes, is the main threat to the survival of the Striped Legless Lizard. Other potentially threatening processes include inappropriate burning regimes and feral animals (Smith & Robertson 1999).

Habitat loss

Approximately 99.5% of natural temperate grassland in south-eastern Australia has been destroyed or drastically altered since European settlement (Carter et al. 2003). Threats such as clearance for agricultural and urban development, rock removal, inappropriate fire regimes, habitat fragmentation and weed invasion by Serrated Tussock (Nassella trichotoma), Chilean Needle Grass (N. neesiana) and related species continue to diminish the quantity and quality of this species' habitat (Cogger et al. 1993; Coulson 1995; Webster et al. 2003). Heavy habitat modification by extended intense grazing, pasture improvement, ploughing, and drought can eliminate this species from a site, however, recolonisation and recovery may be possible if the threat is short-term, not too intense and there is undisturbed refuge habitat nearby (Smith & Robertson 1999).

The creation of barriers to lizard movements such as the construction of buildings, roads, and fences can cause populations to become fragmented and isolated from each other. The loss or degradation of habitat can also have the effect of limiting dispersal between patches. Ploughed, overgrazed and bare ground, such as roads or paths, might represent a barrier to dispersal of Striped Legless Lizards and may fragment habitats (Dorrough & Ash 1999).

At the Commonwealth Defence Land, Lawson (ACT), survey results indicate a decline in population that is compounded when grassland is grazed. The change in cover is likely to reduce refuge opportunities for Striped Legless Lizards and their potential prey. Habitat loss also occurs due to increased urban development and fire in the grasslands. It is observed that the present populations at this location may increase as the habitat quality improves (McElhinney 2002).

Fire

Fire can be detrimental to this species in two ways: it may increase the risk of predation of this species and its prey (due to loss of cover); or it may cause death directly (Smith & Robertson 1999). Cogger and colleagues (1993) recorded mortality following cool fires in grassland reserves, but the extent to which fire is a threat to populations is unknown (Smith & Robertson 1999). The behavioural reaction of Striped Legless Lizards to fire is also unknown, although it seems likely that survivors would either move into unburnt areas or remain relatively inactive in the soil or under rocks until the vegetation recovers enough to provide shelter (Smith & Roberston 1999).

Burning is not necessarily negative for the species and in most situations a degree of burning is required as a management tool. Burning regimes with a frequency greater than once every five years are likely to negatively influence Striped Legless Lizard survivorship (O'Shea 2005). However, it appears that the degree of mortality may vary with timing and the amount of soil cracking and fire type, where autumn/winter burns and wild fire are low impact and spring/summer and control/convection burns are high impact (Coulson 1990; O'Shea 2005).

Predation

Smith and Robertson (1999) report that there may be a number of natural and introduced predators of this species. It is assumed that a range of native predators including snakes, other lizards, raptors, magpies and other predatory birds, and possibly dunnarts (Sminthopsis spp.), will prey on Striped Legless Lizards, but the extent of this predation is unknown. High densities of introduced predators may be more of a concern, as urban development surrounds many Striped Legless Lizard populations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that foxes may prey upon the species (S. Walton n.d., pers comm., cited in Smith & Robertson 1999), and in urban areas cats may also be a threat to populations. Despite this, whether or not predation is a significant threatening process is yet to be thoroughly investigated as this species is both highly cryptic and secretive (Smith & Robertson 1999).

Ten specific conservation objectives were outlined in the species recovery plan prepared by Smith and Robertson (1999). Broadly, these conservation objectives addressed the need to increase our knowledge of the biological and ecological requirements of this species and its distribution, as well as increasing community awareness.

Conservation objectives as outlined in the recovery plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delmar impar) (Smith & Robertson 1999):

  • Establish and maintain national forums for the discussion and organization of the conservation of the Striped Legless Lizard across its natural distribution.
  • Determine the distribution of potential Striped Legless Lizard habitat.
  • Determine the current distribution and abundance of Striped Legless Lizards in Victoria, NSW, the ACT and SA.
  • Establish a series of reserves and other managed areas such that viable populations are maintained across the known distribution of the species.
  • Determine the habitat use and ecological requirements of Striped Legless Lizards.
  • Identify the nature and extent of the threatening processes affecting Striped Legless Lizards.
  • Undertake a program of research and monitoring to provide a basis for adaptive management of Striped Legless Lizards.
  • Increase community awareness and involve the community in aspects of the recovery program.
  • Assess the need for salvage and translocation, determine their feasibilities, develop protocols and undertake a trial translocation if appropriate.
  • Ensure that captive population(s) are used to support education and research elements of the Recovery Plan.

A revised national recovery plan is currently in development.

A National Recovery Team (NRT) for the Striped Legless Lizard was established in 1995, and has been coordinating national survey and research efforts. The outcome of these research and survey efforts have primarily been planned and implemented by two regional working groups: the Victorian Striped Legless Lizard Working Group (VSLLWG), and the ACT and NSW Striped Legless Lizard Regional Working Group (SLLRWG). These working groups are the source of most of the biological and distributional information available for this species (Smith & Robertson 1999).

Smith and Robertson (1999) noted that actions towards meeting recovery objectives was well underway. In particular, research into aspects of the species' habitat relationships has been the focus of much attention in an attempt to identify management requirements for the species. A population and habitat viability analysis (PHVA) was conducted to determine factors important in the population dynamics (ARAZPA 1996; Smith & Robertson 1999) and movements, dietary preferences, and alternative trapping techniques have also been investigated. However, basic demographic parameters such as mortality, recruitment growth and life span remain largely unknown, as do the effects of habitat disturbance factors (i.e. fire, grazing and weed invasion) (Smith & Robertson 1999). The principle hurdle in overcoming this knowledge gap regarding this species' habitat and biology is the difficulty in identifying and monitoring this species (i.e. trapping and tagging of this species).

Ecological burning

An ecological burning regime was trialed in reserves at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Williams Laverton Base in Victoria, in order to maintain an appropriate habitat for this species (Mueck et al. 1998). Regular burning establishes open tussock grassland, a vegetation structure which is considered to provide suitable habitat for the Striped Legless Lizard. Ideally, burning should be patchy and not cover more than 50% of the grassland in any year. Burning up to one third of each grassland area each year is considered by Mueck and colleagues (1998) to be acceptable for the management of this species.

At the same location Mueck and colleagues (1998) suggested a program to salvage Striped Legless Lizards from areas outside these reserves (i.e. on the Commonwealth Defense land) that involves the following:

  • Scraping of the topsoil conducted by back-hoe in a sample area of high quality Danthonia and Stipa grassland
  • Locating and capturing any animals exposed by the scraping
  • Add animals salvaged from the site to the captive colony at the Melbourne Zoo for ecological research and for potential relocation to other conservation reserves (Mueck et al. 1998).

The conservation of Striped Legless Lizards and their habitat will assist in the conservation of natural temperate grassland, which is one of Australia's most threatened ecosystems. Many other threatened flora and fauna species associated with natural temperate grasslands will benefit greatly from the protection and management of Striped Legless Lizard native habitat. The promotion of grassland conservation, however, is problematic because grasslands do not have the broad public appreciation of forests, rivers or wetlands. Having a species such as the Striped Legless Lizard as a well-known and well-liked 'flagship' can be invaluable in the overall conservation of native temperate grasslands (Smith & Robertson 1999).

Government funded projects

McCallums Creek Landcare Group (Victoria) received $4150 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2006–07 for fencing of 2 ha to protect the lizards from persistent grazing, and the development of a management plan with the assistance of professional advisers.

Hamilton Coleraine Rail Reserve Committee Inc (Victoria) received $5400 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2006–07 for the protection and rehabilitation of habitat, fencing to exclude stock, weed control, replanting of degraded sections with native grasses, monitoring to further map the range of this species at the site, and signage for visitors to the Reserve.

Upper Campaspe Combined Landcare Group (Victoria) received $2150 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2000–01 for fencing of the Lake Eppalock foreshore to prevent sheep access to remnant grassland habitat.

The Upper Goulburn Catchment Group (Victoria) received $4900 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2001–02 for the enhancement of known habitat of this species through removal of weeds, community education, monitoring/survey work, and encouragement of landholders to maintain existing habitats on their lands at Yea cemetery and local roadsides.

The Wannon Conservation Society (Victoria) received $4236 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002–03 for determining the south-western limit of the species distribution and the establishment of habitat preferences, and the provision of advice to landholders to help manage populations on private land.

Community Groups in Castlemaine Zone (Victoria) received $28 500 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2002–03 for the protection of state-listed ecological communities including grassy woodlands and creekline grassy woodlands to conserve and enhance habitat for threatened species, habitat restoration, weed and predator control.

Friends of the Striped Legless Lizard (FOSLL) (Victoria) received $6200 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2003–04 for the repair of habitat for this species, seed orchard beds and signage to educate the community about threatened plants and animals in the region.

Friends of Merri Creek (Victoria) received $6503 of funding through the Threatened Species Network Community Grants in 2004–05, part of which was for restoration and expansion of habitat for the Striped legless lizard, and for restoration of a native grassland community.

Management documents for the Striped Legless Lizard include:

  • National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith & Robertson 1999) (curently under revision).
  • Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): A vulnerable species. Action Plan No. 2 (ACT Government 1997g).
  • Striped Legless Lizard - profile (NSW DECC 2005am).
  • Flora & Fauna Guarantee Action Statement no. 17: Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar (Webster et al. 2003).
  • Threat Abatement Plan for predation by the European red fox (DEWHA) (2008adf).
  • Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats (DEWHA) (2008adg).

The following table lists known and perceived threats to this species. Threats are based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) threat classification version 1.1.

Threat Class Threatening Species References
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Agriculture and Aquaculture:Land clearing, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat degradation The Action Plan for Australian Reptiles (Cogger, H.G., E.E. Cameron, R.A. Sadlier & P. Eggler, 1993) [Cwlth Action Plan].
National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing modified pastures and associated habitat changes National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Grazing pressures and associated habitat changes National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Agriculture and Aquaculture:Livestock Farming and Grazing:Habitat loss and modification due to clearance of native vegetation and pasture improvements The Impact of Global Warming on the Distribution of Threatened Vertebrates (ANZECC 1991) (Dexter, E.M., A.D. Chapman & J.R. Busby, 1995) [Report].
Biological Resource Use:Hunting and Collecting Terrestrial Animals:Harvesting for scientific purposes National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Climate Change and Severe Weather:Droughts:Drought National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Oryctolagus cuniculus (Rabbit, European Rabbit) The threat posed by pest animals to biodiversity in New South Wales (Coutts-Smith, A.J., P.S. Mahon, M. Letnic & P.O. Downey, 2007) [Management Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or habitat degradation Nassella neesiana (Chilean Needle grass) Weeds of National Significance Chilean Needle-grass (Nassella neesiana) Strategic Plan (Agriculture & Resources Management Council of Australia & New Zealand, Australian & New Zealand Environment & Conservation Council and Forestry Ministers, 2001i) [Threat Abatement Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Vulpes vulpes (Red Fox, Fox) National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Invasive and Other Problematic Species and Genes:Invasive Non-Native/Alien Species:Competition and/or predation Felis catus (Cat, House Cat, Domestic Cat) National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].
Natural System Modifications:Fire and Fire Suppression:Inappropriate and/or changed fire regimes (frequency, timing, intensity) National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003 (Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson, 1999) [Recovery Plan].

ACT Government (1997g). Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar). Action Plan No. 2. [Online]. Canberra: Environment ACT. Available from: http://www.environment.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/234473/actionplans2.pdf.

ACT Government (2005a). A Vision Splendid of the Grassy Plains Extended: ACT Lowland Native Grassland Conservation Strategy. [Online]. Action Plan No. 28. Canberra: Arts, Heritage and Environment. Available from: http://www.environment.act.gov.au/cpr/conservation_and_ecological_communities/grassland_conservation_strategy.

Anon (2002a). Striped legless lizard field day. Alexandra Eildon Marysville Standard. July 24.

Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) (1996). Population and Habitat Viability assessment (PHVA) for the striped legless lizard Delma impar. Workshop held in Canberra, Australia. 30 July - 2 August 1996. Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria, ACT Parks and Conservation Service, Striped Legless Lizard Working Group, and Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (SSC/IUCN).

Banks, C.B., T. Hawkes, J. Birkett & M. Vincent (1999). Captive management and breeding of the Striped Legless Lizard, Delma impar, at Melbourne Zoo. Hertpetofauna. 29(2):18-28.

Cogger, H.G. (1992). Reptiles and amphibians of Australia - 5th Edition. Sydney: Reed Books.

Cogger, H.G. (2000). Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia - 6th edition. Sydney, NSW: Reed New Holland.

Cogger, H.G., E.E. Cameron, R.A. Sadlier & P. Eggler (1993). The Action Plan for Australian Reptiles. [Online]. Canberra, ACT: Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/action/reptiles/index.html.

Corrigan, A., L.S. Nelson, D. Shorthouse & W.J.S. Smith (1996). Survey of section 107 Symonston for two vulnerable lizard species and salvage of the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) population during the summer of 1995-96. Internal Report 96/4. ACT: Wildlife Research Unit, ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Coulson, G. (1990). Conservation biology of the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) an initial investigation. Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research. Victoria: National Parks & Wildlife Division, Department of Conservation & Environment.

Coulson, G. (1995). Management directions for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) in the Australian Capital Territory. ACT Parks & Conservation Service. Canberra: ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPaC) (2011m). Survey guidelines for Australia's threatened reptiles. EPBC Act survey guidelines 6.6 . [Online]. Canberra, ACT: DSEWPaC. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/threatened-reptiles.html.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008zzp). Threat Abatement Plan for predation by feral cats. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/cats08.html.

Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008zzq). Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by the European Red Fox. [Online]. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/foxes08.html.

Dorrough, J. (1995). Past and present habitat of the Striped Legless Lizard, Delma impar (Pygopodidae), in the Australian Capital Territory. ACT Parks & Conservation Service, Canberra.

Dorrough, J. & J.E. Ash (1999). Using past and present habitat to predict the current distribution and abundance of a rare cryptic lizard, Delma impar (Pygopodidae). Australian Journal of Ecology. 24:614-624.

Hadden, S. (1995). Distribution, population habitat estimates and habitat requirements for the striped legless lizard Delma impar (Kluge). Report to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Melbourne: Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Kirkpatrick, J., K. McDougall & M. Hyde (1995). Australia's Most Threatened Ecosystem: the southeastern lowland native grasslands. Chipping Norton, Sydney: Surrey Beatty & Sons.

Kukolic, K. (1994). Survey for the Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar during 1993 at the National Museum of Australia Site, Yarramundi Reach, ACT. ACT Parks & Conservation Service. ACT: National Capital Planning Authority, Wildlife Research Unit.

Kutt, A. (1992). Microhabitat selection and mobility of the Striped Legless Lizard, Delma impar. Hons. Thesis. University of Melbourne. Parkville, Victoria: Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne.

McElhinney, N. (2002). Targeted Survey for Striped Legless Lizard at Lawson, ACT. Canberra: HLA-Envirosciences.

Milne, S. (1999). Delma impar Status Report 21/9/99.

Milne, S. (2001a). Personal Communication.

Mueck, S., S. Larwill, L. Smith & M. Belvedere (1998). A conservation management plan for three rare species reserves RAAF Williams, Laverton. Port Melbourne, Victoria: Biosis Research Pty Ltd.

NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (NSW DECC) (2005am). Striped Legless Lizard - profile. [Online]. NSW: NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. Available from: http://www.threatenedspecies.environment.nsw.gov.au/tsprofile/profile.aspx?id=10211.

Nunan, D. (1995). Diet and feeding ecology of the Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar (Fischer, 1882) within the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra: ACT Parks & Conservation Service.

O'Shea, M. (1996). An Ecological Study of the Population of Striped Legless Lizards Delma impar (Fischer, 1882) Inhabiting Native and Exotic Grasslands in the North-east Corner of the Albion Explosives Factory Site (St. Albans, Victoria). Hons. Thesis. Victoria University of Technology. St Albans, Victoria: Victoria University of Technology.

O'Shea, M. (2005). Methods for assessment and techniques for management of striped legless lizard Delma impar populations in south-eastern Australia. Ph.D. Thesis. Victoria: Victoria University.

Parks Victoria (2004a). Terrick Terrick National Park Management Plan. Melbourne: Parks Victoria.

Rauhala, M.A. (1996). 1995 survey and monitoring program for the Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar. Internal Report 96/1. ACT: Wildlife Research Unit, ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Rauhala, M.A. (1998). Personal Communication.

Rauhala, M.A., D.J. Shorthouse & F. Ingwersen (1995). The Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar in the Gunghalin, Majura and Jerrabomberra valleys. Incorporating: A report of the 1994 survey for Delma impar and options for the protection and conservation of Delma impar in the ACT. Internal Report 95/2. ACT: Wildlife Research Unit, ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Smith, W.J.S. & P. Robertson (1999). National Recovery Plan for the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar): 1999-2003. [Online]. Environment Australia, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/recovery/striped-legless-lizard/index.html.

Wainer, J.W. (1992). Diet of the Striped Legless Lizard, Delma impar, at the Derrimut Grassland Reserve, to the west of Melbourne. Unpublished report to the Department of Conservation and Environment. Melbourne.

Webster, A., R. Fallu & K. Preece (2003). Flora & Fauna Guarantee Action Statement no. 17: Striped Legless Lizard Delma impar. [Online]. Melbourne: Department of Sustainability and Environment. Available from: http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/plants-and-animals/flora-and-fauna-guarantee-act-action-statements-index-of-approved-action-statements.

Whitby, M. (1995). The ecology of the Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) on a grazing property in western Victoria. University of Ballarat, Victoria. Unpublished report.

Wilson, S.K. & D.G. Knowles (1988). Australia's Reptiles: A Photographic Reference to the Terrestrial Reptiles of Australia. Australia: Collins Publishers.

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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.

Citation: Department of the Environment (2014). Delma impar in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Fri, 1 Aug 2014 06:11:19 +1000.