As we purge the planet of suitable habitat for this species, remaining animals are forced to live in increasingly smaller and smaller areas. Never being one to sit back and rely on ‘someone else’ taking the lead I decided it was time to do my part to help reverse the downward trend of this species.
The S.O.S. (Save Our Sungazers) Campaign began with several objectives, all linked with each other and all designed to help promote the long term survival of the Sungazer Lizard in both captivity and in the wild.
- Firstly, I believe that education is key, only through increasing awareness of the plight of the Sungazer Lizard can we hope to conserve it for future generations. Education is needed not only at an International level but importantly at a local ‘on the ground’ level.
- Identify the main stimuli to breeding this species in captivity on a regular basis.
- Communication and Coordination – communication and coordination between individuals working with this species either directly or indirectly. This can be difficult as each different individual, organisation and local government has its own objectives and requirements.
- Protect and Manage prime Sungazer habitat and create viable, genetic diverse sustainable populations.
So how do I plan on achieving these objectives? Well the fact that you are reading this web site suggests that I am already increasing, even just a little, awareness of this species. Gaining support from fellow reptile enthusiasts is relatively easy. Gaining support and sympathy from non reptile people can be more difficult. At the 2010 European Studbook Conference in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, I launched the S.O.S. Campaign with the aim of taking the fight to save this species ‘on the road’. Since 2010 I have given several presentations at various Universities, Clubs and public gatherings – including the Glasgow Science Centre. Here is a picture of my booth.
In regards to captive breeding efforts I firmly believe that we have reached a ‘cross roads’. Either we identify the key stimuli to breeding or we decide to stop keeping this species in captivity. Unlike many other endangered species, captive breeding success has been rare and certainly not with any regularity. Through my own research, I believe that the two key factors to successful and consistent captive breeding are firstly to provide the animals with environmental indicators and conditions that mimic natural / wild conditions. To achieve this I have purchased over a dozen environmental data loggers that record both temperatures and humidity over a 12 month period. Once available, this information will be freely available via this web site. The second key to breeding this species is, I believe, to recreate the communal living of wild Sungazers. Only through this competition and interaction between individuals of both sexes can we create the ‘need’ to breed. Not only this but the more animals you have, statistically, the greater chance there is for successful breeding!!
Communication and Coordination through a centralised organisation such as the European Studbook Foundation or other means must be encouraged. There are many organisations and individuals working directly or indirectly with this species but there is no central or common goal.
Work is currently underway to identify factors which influence Sungazers in the wild. I hope to report on the findings of this study within the next few months.
The S.O.S. Campaign is a not for profit initiative and any money collected will go directly towards achieving the ambitious, yet achievable, goals as set out above. Being classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN List of Threatened Species is bad enough but when you consider that this was last updated over 15 years ago, the situation could be far worse.