Existing Conservation Measures
Implementation of the previous Corangamite Water Skink recovery plan (Robertson 1998) saw the majority of actions either fully or partially completed. These actions informed on the natural history, population demographics and ecological requirements of the subspecies as well as the agents driving its decline, enabling a comprehensive strategy for its long-term recovery and management to be devised. Major outputs and achievements from the previous plans implementation are outlined below:
A Recovery Team for the Corangamite Water Skink was established in September 1997, and co-ordinates recovery efforts for the taxon. The Recovery Team liaises closely with university and other research groups, other relevant working groups, recovery teams such as the Striped Legless Lizard National Recovery Team and various grassland recovery groups. The studies co-ordinated by the Recovery Team, in conjunction with university and other groups, have provided most of the current knowledge of E. t. marnieae distribution, biology and ecology.
Organisations represented on the Recovery Team include:
Department of Sustainability and Environment
La Trobe University
Trust for Nature
Corangamite and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authorities
Wildlife Profiles Pty. Ltd.
Local conservation and landowner groups
Survey and Monitoring
Extensive targeted surveys to investigate the distribution and abundance of E. t. marnieae were conducted during the spring and summer of 1997/98 and 1998/99 (Peterson 1999; Robertson and Lowe 1999; Peterson 2000), which resulted in the present understanding of the distribution of the taxon. Populations at 14 sites have been monitored since 1996, including visual census and capture-mark-recapture (G. Peterson unpubl. data 2010). Analysis of these data has provided estimates of long-term mean trends in abundance (Scroggie 2005).
Biology and Ecology
General aspects of the habitat and biology of E. t. marnieae have been studied, including habitat and microhabitat selection and utilisation, reproductive life history, population dynamics, morphological variation and impacts of potential threats ((Peterson 1997; G. Peterson unpubl. data 2010), diet and factors influencing food availability (Knights 2003), home range (Knights 2003; Malone and Peterson in prep), the effect of grazing exclusion on E. t. marnieae and its habitat (Peterson 2006), and genetic variability within and between populations of E. t. marnieae and E. t. tympanum (Scott and Keogh 2003). Further research examining small-scale movement and dispersal and population structure at the microsatellite level is currently being conducted (J. Sumner pers. comm. 2009).
Reservation and Management
In 2004 an area of land identified as a high priority site for E. t. marnieae was purchased through the National Reserves System Program with funding from the Australian and Victorian State Governments (Robertson and Fitzsimons 2004). This is now the only population of E. t. marnieae protected within a conservation reserve. A number of other populations occur within or on the boundary of other public land (in particular lake reserves), but these cannot currently be considered secure due to undefined boundaries and/or permitted public access and associated activities. Currently two private properties that contain E. t. marnieae are protected under conservation covenants and a number of sites on private land are managed specifically for the lizard.
Since 2003 an extensive effort has been undertaken to implement the interim management guidelines developed by the recovery team (Robertson and Peterson 2000) at all E. t. marnieae sites. These actions have been funded primarily by the Australian Government via the Corangamite and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authorities, and generally implemented in partnership with groups such as Greening Australia’s Borrell-a-kandelop project, Lismore Land Protection Group, Trust for Nature, Alvie Tree Planters, West Lake Colac Action Group, International Student Volunteers, Watershed 2000, local schools, Colac Otway Shire, Parks Victoria and Department of Primary Industries.
Approximately 24 km of fencing across 18 sites has been erected to protect and enhance the habitat of the skink. At all sites, the fencing was undertaken with the full agreement, support and enthusiasm of the land owner/manager, and at no or minimal costs to them. Habitat enhancement on private land through revegetation with native plants, building and extending rocky outcrops, weed removal and predator control have also occurred (Peterson 2006). Management agreements for E. t. marnieae on private land have been achieved through a variety of measures including conservation covenants arranged with Trust For Nature, incentive payments provided for ongoing habitat management through Plains Tender and Wetland Tender, Land for Wildlife membership, binding management agreements linked to Greening Australia and Landcare incentive programs, endorsed plans as prescribed in planning permit conditions and less formal agreements on land management practices. Rapid increases in E. t. marnieae numbers were observed at three sites over a three-year period following protection works and the creation of new habitat (Peterson 2001). Animals have also colonised newly created habitat shortly after works were completed (G. Peterson unpubl. data 2004).
Landowner participation in and support for this conservation program has, and will continue to be, crucial. Commitment from landholders towards conservation of this subspecies has included a range of measures including conservation covenants, conservation tenders, Land for Wildlife membership, Greening Australia and Landcare incentives, co-operative agreements, and less formal agreements on land management practices to support conservation of the lizard. The Department of Sustainability and Environment has continually engaged with landholders and community groups and provided information on the recovery program through fact sheets, media releases and presentations at public forums (G. Peterson pers. comm. 2010).