Round Island skink (Leiolopisma telfairii)

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Round Island skink
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Round Island skink fact file

Round Island skink description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyScincidae
GenusLeiolopisma (1)

There are around 1,400 skink species occupying almost all types of habitats worldwide. They are divided into 3 distinct sub-families with the Round Island skink belonging to the Scincinae sub-family (3). Despite the number of skink species many are superficially similar in appearance. The Round Island skink is a brownish-grey lizard, often speckled with darker or brown flecks, which reaches an average total length of about 30-40 centimetres. Its small, shiny scales shine with rainbow-coloured iridescence in the sunshine (2). The body is roughly cylindrical in shape, with a fairly long, strong tail which can be regenerated if lost in a fight or predation attempt (4) (2). Its four legs, though relatively short, are very powerful and are used for digging nesting or hiding burrows. When these lizards move quickly through dense undergrowth they may lie their legs alongside the body and move in a snake-like fashion (2) (4).

Also known as
Telfair's skink.
Size
Length: 30-40 cm (2)
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Round Island skink biology

The Round Island skink is active at all times of day and night, depending upon the time of year. It is a bold and gregarious species and shows little fear of people. Though much remains to be learned about this species’ ecology it is known to be an aggressive predator of practically anything it can get in its mouth, including the young of its own species. However it is an opportunistic omnivore and eats fruits and seeds as well as invertebrates and other lizards (2).

This species is an egg-layer with females laying multiple clutches of up to a dozen or more soft-shelled eggs over the course of a breeding season. Each clutch is buried in damp, sandy soil where they are abandoned to undergo the two months or so of incubation before they hatch as fully independent, but vulnerable, miniatures of their parents (2).

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Round Island skink range

This species is now endemic to Round Island, a small 151 hectare island found off the north coast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean (5). Before the arrival of humans and their entourage of pets and pests, the skinks were found on the mainland of Mauritius and numerous other offshore islets (2).

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Round Island skink habitat

Since the destruction of the tropical hardwood forest on Round Island at the hands of humans and the goats and rabbits they stocked the island with, this species and the others it shares Round Island with are restricted to the grasses, scrub and leaf litter beneath the remaining endemic palm forest (2).

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Round Island skink status

Classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Round Island skink threats

Round Island is a refuge for many rare and endangered plants and animals, several of which are found nowhere else in the world (5). Many of these species used to occur in Mauritius and on other islets, but have been exterminated by a combination of habitat loss and depredation by exotic animals brought by human settlers. Mongooses, rats, and cats are the worst offenders but by a stroke of good fortune, Round Island has remained free of these invaders. However, Round Island suffered terribly from introduced goats and rabbits grazing on the vegetation, preventing plant regeneration and causing serious soil erosion (2).

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Round Island skink conservation

Recent conservation measures on Round Island, and especially those involving the Round Island skink, have met with considerable success. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), New Zealand Department of Conservation (NZ, DOC) and Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (DWCT) have all worked closely with the Mauritian Government to help protect the remaining species from extinction (5). They began by eradicating the goats and rabbits. This has allowed the island’s vegetation to begin a natural process of regeneration, assisted by intensive restoration programmes including weeding, propagation, planting and seeding of pioneer and endemic plant species. The improved habitat available on Round Island as in turn resulted in a dramatic increase in Round Island skink numbers in the past 15 years (2).

The species has also been bred successfully at DWCT’s Jersey Zoo and other zoos in Europe and the USA (6).

Despite its revived and healthy population this species is still considered vulnerable since it is only found on Round Island. While other Round Island endemic species might be translocated to other islets formerly within their range and which have had exotic predators removed, the skink is such a voracious predator that there are concerns it may feed on, and deplete, other rare lizard species endemic to some of these islets (6) (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on conservation in Mauritius and Round Island see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Omnivore
An organism that feeds on both plants and animals.
Translocated
When individual living organisms from one area have been transferred and released or planted in another area.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2003)
    http://www.redlist.org
  2. Gibson, R. (2004) Pers. comm.
  3. Mattison, C. (1992) Lizards of the World. Blandford Press, London.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (December, 2003)
    http://www.mauritian-wildlife.org/reptile.htm
  6. Global Invasive Species Program (December, 2003)
    http://www.gisp.org/casestudies/reptile_recovery.asp
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Image credit

Round Island skink  
Round Island skink

© Nick Garbutt / Indri Images

Nick Garbutt / Indri Images
Fell Side Cottage
3 Lime Street
Shap
Penrith
Cumbria
CA10 3PQ
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1931 716 227
Fax: +44 (0) 1931 716 227
nick@nickgarbutt.com
http://www.nickgarbutt.com

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