Blue-Tailed Skinks Given Their Very Own Private Island To Prevent Extinction

Blue-Tailed Skink

A critically endangered species is being given its own island in the South Pacific in order to make a comeback.

There is not a single human being on this planet that wouldn’t love to have a private island in the South Pacific. Now, a species of blue-tailed skink has been given their dream vacation home in an effort to encourage them to bounce back from the brink of extinction.

Cryptoblepharus egeriae, better known as the Christmas Island blue-tailed skink, is functionally extinct in the wild. Populations of the small, brilliantly-colored lizard started declining in the 1980s until today you simply cannot find any on Christmas Island, the blue-tailed skink’s native home.

via Parks Australia

It's believed that invasive species led to the blue-tailed skink's decline--specifically the Southeast Asian wolf snake. The problem (for the skink) is that the skink's only defense is to drop its tail in a process called "autotomy" or "self-amputation." This confuses the predator and gives the skink a chance to escape.

Which is a defense that only works once. After that, it can take months for the skink's tail to regrow, meaning it's completely defenseless in the meantime. So the snakes moved in, ate all the skink's tales, and then ate the rest of them. No more blue-tailed skinks.

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However, there is hope. Researchers from Parks Australia and the Taronga zoo managed to capture 66 skinks back in 2009 and begin a breeding program. Now there are over 1,500 skinks living safely in captivity, and they're ready to be re-introduced into the wild.

Cocos Island
via abc.net

But not on Christmas Island. That place is still too dangerous for these little blue babies to live. Instead, they'll be dropped off on Pulu Blan, a tiny island in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the South Pacific, about 1,335 miles off the coast of Australia.

As far as we know, the island is completely free of predators. It's also just 6.5 feet above sea level, so if the whole polar ice caps melting thing happens, then the skinks will have another reason to go extinct.

(via ABC.net)

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