How excited I was to hear about the recent sightings of the endangered lace monitor lizard in and around a privately-owned block of remnant bushland in Leongatha South.
Lace monitors were seen at the end of 2015 emerging from the bush block into neighbouring farmland and have been seen as recently as a few months ago.
These magnificent animals hadn’t been seen in the area for years and were listed as endangered in Victoria in 2013 (Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna 2013).
How devastating then that this same block of bushland is the site selected for off road motorcycle racing in an application before the South Gippsland Shire Council.
The greatest threats to the lace monitor are disturbance of habitat, loss of habitat and fragmentation of habitat.
It is not surprising then that the first sightings at the end of 2015 coincided with weeks of illegal clearing in the block to create a 12km motorbike racetrack.
The track pierces the heart of the block that was once intact messmate and peppermint forest with trees pre-dating the pioneers, and the likely refuge of this arboreal species. Council did order rehabilitation and revegetation of the tracks following an investigation in 2016 but has not confirmed if there has been compliance.
The threatened species officer at DEWLP advises that all wildlife is protected from habitat disturbance by the Wildlife Act 1975 unless the landowner is granted a specific authority to do so.
Endangered species are further protected by Victoria’s Native Vegetation Management: A Framework for Action that specifies vegetation removal should be avoided in threatened species habitat.
It is not too late to undo the damage done to the bush block and preserve one of the last refuges for this iconic Australian reptile in Victoria.
There are many organisations that can help such as Conservation Volunteers and Trust for Nature. Australia has the worst record for species extinctions in the world. Let’s not add one more.
Gabrielle Smetham, Leongatha South.
Lace monitor clings on, but for how long?