|Town/Region||Free State, Mpumalanga|
|Date||8 Jan 2020|
Sungazers (Smaug giganteus) are Threatened lizards that are endemic to the highveld grasslands of South Africa. These ambush foragers seek refuge in self-constructed burrows, where they spend most of their lives, and activity is concentrated around those burrows. It is evident that these lizards deserve their Threatened status as a recent assessment on the conservation status of the species reports an estimated 48% decline in mature individuals as compared to the historical population (Parusnath et al., 2017), with habitat fragmentation and poaching forming some of the major threats to the species. The anthropogenically-driven activities within the species’ distribution has the potential to affect the population structure and ecology of the species: as the human population increases, so does the pressure for agricultural land. In an attempt to combat the anthropogenically-driven pressures, previous attempts of translocation have been made but were extremely unsuccessful, with a 3% success rate in the year following translocation and a 0% success rate 10 years after. Sungazers are therefore imperilled because of the perfect storm: their habitat is disappearing, populations are decreasing and are being snuffed out, they are used in the muthi market, are in high demand in the pet trade, and they have poor translocation success rates. We predict that the lack of understanding on the microhabitat of the refuge sites and how the species interacts with its environment are contributing factors for the poor success rates of translocation, especially considering that Sungazers are a species that have strong selective pressures on choosing sites for burrow construction.
Our research is aimed at assessing which factors drive burrow site selection in Sungazers. Additionally, we will be assessing the associated ecological benefits and consequences that Sungazers are exposed to whilst at their burrows. The results of this study are intended to enhance conservation efforts, with specific regard to translocation and reintroduction protocols as we aim to understand how Sungazers select sites for burrow construction, and how these lizards interact with their environment.
For further information contact:
Instagram: @wadesj13 (https://www.instagram.com/wadesj13/)
Research Gate: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Wade_Stanton-Jones