A Naturalist’s Guide to the Reptiles of Canberra

BLUE-TONGUED SKINK (Tiliqua rugosa)

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An emblematically Australian animal, the blue-tongued skink (or lizard) can be found throughout the ACT. It is a large, diurnal lizard, which feeds mostly on berries and flowers, but which also occasionally uses ambush techniques to hunt small insects and gastropods (snails). The blue-tongued lizard’s most distinctive feature is its eponymous cerulean tongue, which it uses to frighten off potential predators. If you see one hissing and displaying its tongue, be careful! Blue-tongues are known to bite if threatened, and will often refuse to let go of you if they do. If you do get bitten, don’t panic, but gently lower the lizard to the ground and allow it to let go of you in its own time.

EASTERN BROWN SNAKE (Pseudonaja textilis)

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The eastern or common brown snake is one of Australia’s most poisonous snakes and, unfortunately for bushwalkers, one of the several that call the ACT home. Like the blue-tongued lizard and the striped legless lizard, the brown snake demonstrates the Australian penchant for calling a spade a spade when it comes to naming wildlife. An adult brown snake is normally around 1.5 metres long, and, whilst it lives in an extraordinary number of different habitats, tends to be found most commonly in flat, grassy areas. As it is spring at the moment, brown snakes are beginning to emerge, and can often be seen when walking in the bush. Unfortunately, brown snakes are also highly defensive, and tend to spring out at you when surprised or frightened. If you come across a brown snake in the wild, do not approach it, and make sure to give it plenty of warning of your presence.

STRIPED LEGLESS LIZARD (Delma impar)

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One of the more unusual of the ACT’s lizards, the striped legless lizard slithers like a snake, looks like a snake but is not, in fact, a snake. The most obvious differences between the striped legless lizard and a snake are its broad, undivided tongue and the small atavistic flaps where its back legs once were. This unusual lizard can be most easily identified by the long black or brown stripes that run down the entire length of its body. It is a shy animal, normally hiding itself away in cracks in the ground or amongst loose rocks. It is almost impossible to find during winter, when it goes into an hibernation-like torpor, but can occasionally be found during the summer months if you look hard enough in the right places. It lives on a diet of grasshoppers, crickets and other small insects, including spiders.

CAM WILSON (Illuminatium expresidentis)

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If the eastern brown is the second most poisonous reptile in Australia, Illuminatium expresidentis is easily the most deadly. Often seen sunning itself in Union Court, this particular species of reptile should not be approached, as this seemingly-innocent behaviour is merely a cover for the reception of coded interstellar communication and the accrual of the photon energy necessary to nefariously undermine various world and university governments. Distinguished mainly by its pyramidal or triangular markings, Cam Wilson represents an evolutionary throw-back to the period of the dinosaurs, when extra-terrestrial reptilians dominated and oppressed mammalian life everywhere. Earlier this year it was reported that this species of lizard may have been ousted from its native environment by a coalition of smaller departmental skinks and geckoes; however, these rumours appear to have been unfounded. If a native Cam Wilson is encountered in the wild, Woroni recommends that you stop, drop, roll and hide your SSAF money under your bed somewhere.