The Recovery Plan for the Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leuraensis)

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, June 2001
ISBN 0 7313 6283 7

Appendix 1. Threatened Species information for the Blue Mountains Water Skink Eulamprus leuraensis(Wells and Wellington, 1984)

Other common names: Leura Skink, Blue Mountains Swamp Skink

Conservation status

The Blue Mountains Water Skink is listed as an endangered species on Schedule 1 Part 1 of the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act). The species is also listed as an endangered species on the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Description

The Blue Mountains Water Skink is a medium sized lizard that reaches a maximum weight of approximately 10g. It grows to a maximum total length of approximately 200mm, with a maximum snout-vent length of about 80mm (LeBreton, 1996).

Illustration of E. leuraensis

The body of the Blue Mountains Water Skink is much darker than the other species of Eulamprus found in the Blue Mountains. Across its back it is very dark brown to black with narrow yellow/bronze to white stripes along its length to the beginning of the tail and continuing along the tail as a series of spots. This gives the appearance of a distinctive dark dorsal stripe bordered by yellow lines. The limbs and sides are also dark brown to black with yellow to bronze streaks and small blotches. The head is brown to bronze with black flecks and its underside is cream to golden yellow with small dark blotches. The limbs are well developed and all have five digits.

Distribution

Surveys to date suggest that the distribution of the Blue Mountains Water Skink occurs entirely within the Blue Mountains (middle and upper) west of Sydney, NSW. It is currently known from 30 locations extending from Newnes Plateau in the north and west to just south of Hazelbrook in the south and east.

It is possible that additional locations will be identified, and these may lie outside the currently known distribution.

Occurrences in conservation reserves

Of the 30 known locations, 16 occur primarily in the Blue Mountains National Park. The remainder occur primarily on land managed by other local and State Government agencies. A total of seven locations occur, in part, on privately owned land.

Habitat

The Blue Mountains Water Skink is a high elevation species and at present the lowest altitude recorded for this species is 560m at Williams Ridge, south of Hazelbrook, NSW. Surveys to date suggest that the Blue Mountains Water Skink is restricted to an isolated and naturally fragmented habitat of sedge and shrub swamps (Keith and Benson, 1988) that have boggy soils and appear to be permanently wet (LeBreton, 1996). The vegetation in these swamps typically takes the form of a sedgeland interspersed with shrubs, but may be a dense shrub thicket.

Ecology

Little is known about the biology and ecology of the Blue Mountains Water Skink. It is semi-aquatic (Wells and Wellington, 1985) and is active on warm sunny days from September until late April (LeBreton, 1996). From scats it has been established that skinks feed on grasshoppers, flies, moths, weevils and wasps. A small fruit with a seed was found in a scat at Leura (LeBreton, 1992).

Females give birth to live young (ovoviviparous) in late December (LeBreton, 1996). When disturbed the Blue Mountains Water Skink rapidly takes to shelter in dense grass tussocks or down holes.

Threats

The small number and apparent isolation of populations in conjunction with the limited geographic distribution of the Blue Mountains Water Skink make it vulnerable to the operation of threatening processes. Clearing for urban development as well as associated disturbance to habitat has resulted in the reduction of the area of known and potential habitat as well as the apparent extinction from areas where this species previously occurred.

Possible threats include urban development (some locations are almost completely surrounded by houses and other locations have adjacent land zoned for further development), pollution and sedimentation (including stormwater run-off), alterations to hydrological regimes (through construction of roads, tracks, plantations, mining subsidence), weed invasion, visitor disturbance (trail bikes, 4WD) and predation by cats.

Management

Management should initially be directed at protecting known sites from threats through, for example, appropriate weed, pollution and stormwater runoff control. Further survey in potential habitat, and monitoring of the status of representative populations is also needed to identify the full distribution of the species and allow application of appropriate management. A public education program needs to be undertaken to raise awareness of the conservation status of the skink and the processes that threaten it.

Further research is needed to investigate key areas of the biology and ecology of the skink that are likely to provide information that is valuable to the recovery of the species or relevant to its management. These include research into the life history, population dynamics, home range and movement patterns, habitat requirements and response to disturbance.

Recovery Plans

The Minister for the Environment approved the recovery plan for the Blue Mountains Water Skink in August 2001. Copies may be viewed at www.npws.nsw.gov.au

For Further Information contact

Threatened Species Unit
Central Directorate
NSW NPWS PO Box 1967
Hurstville NSW 2220
Phone 02 9585 6678
or visit our website at www.npws.nsw.gov.au

References

Keith, D.A. and Benson, D.H. 1988. Natural vegetation of the Katoomba area. Cunninghamia 2: 107-143.

LeBreton, M. 1992. Notes on the Blue Mountains Water Skink, Costinisauria leuraensis (Wells and Wellington) (Lacertilia: Scincidae). Sydney Basin Naturalist 1: 101-103.

LeBreton, M. 1996. Habitat and distribution of the Blue Mountains swamp skink (Eulamprus leuraensis). BSc Honours thesis, University of NSW, Australia.

Wells, R.W. and Wellington, C.R. 1985. A classification of the Amphibia and Reptilia of Australia. Australian Journal of Herpetology Supplementary Series No. 1. Pp. 1-61.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER

The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the editor expressly disclaim all liability and responsibility to any person, whether a purchaser or reader of this document or not, in respect of anything done or omitted to be done by any person in reliance upon the contents of this document although every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented in this document is accurate and up to date.