The rare Orange Sandveld Lizard (Nucras aurantiaca) was recently rediscovered in the Western Cape by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) and collaborators from the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and Bayworld Museum.
This is only the second time that the species has been recorded and the first time in over a decade.
The EWT’s Conservation Planning and Science Unit (CPSU) is surveying for species currently listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (the Red List).
These species do not trigger any red flags during Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) processes, as they are not included in the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Environmental Screening Tool, which provides site-specific EIA process and review information.
“This exclusion leaves these species vulnerable to extinction before we can understand their ecology, habitat requirements, population dynamics, and threats,” the EWT said.
The Orange Sandveld Lizard is one of 10 reptiles currently considered Data Deficient with an additional 44 reptiles listed as species of conservation concern on the Red List.
The aim of the surveys is to gather enough new data to “uplist” them either to a relevant threat category or confirm that they are not threatened, impacting the level of protection they are afforded under the law.
The scientists spent a fortnight in December surveying the region where the Orange Sandveld Lizard was last recorded a decade ago, near Lambert’s Bay on the West Coast.
“The region is already under pressure from agricultural activities and recently granted wide-ranging mining prospecting rights,” the EWT said.
“The survey team was excited to find and confirm the identity of the lizard at one of the trapping sites and will submit the data collected towards the reassessment of the species’ conservation status.”
“Due to its apparent scarcity and the substantial habitat transformation of the only location it is known to occur, it will likely be uplisted to one of the Red List threat categories.”
“If the lizard is uplisted, it will qualify for increased legal protection and be included in the next updates of the Environmental Screening Tool and the EWT’s Threatened Species No-Go Mapping Tool, which identifies areas of significant biodiversity impact, especially for localised species of conservation concern,” EWT explained. “The species and its conservation status will then have to be accounted for during future EIAs in the region, ultimately helping to protect the West Coast and its wildlife from harmful developments.”