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Pedra Branca skink

Current status

[Photo of Pedra Branca skink by D. Rounsevell.]

The Pedra Branca skink (Niveoscincus palfreymani) is listed as endangered under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995 and vulnerable under the Federal Act.

Why is it a threatened species?

This skink lives in only one place in the world, a tiny islet or rocky outcrop known as Pedra Branca Islet which is 26 km off the south-east coast of Tasmania. Being so restricted in distribution and so isolated makes this skink very susceptible to any disturbances.

The number of skink on Pedra Branca appears to be decreasing. This is likely to be due to seagulls eating the skinks.

Why are numbers decreasing?

It is not yet known why the Pedra Branca skink numbers are declining. They have always been preyed upon by seagulls and there is no indication that seagull numbers have increased. However some seagulls have moved their nest sites into the area where the skink lives and so it is likely that the two species are coming into a lot more contact and more skinks are being eaten. When seagulls increasingly began to use Pedra Branca as a breeding site the number of skinks declined. Over 10 years, from 1986 to 1996, the number of skinks dropped from 560 to 290.

The Pedra Branca skink's main food source is the regurgitate of seabirds. Mainly they rely on the regurgitate or vomit of the Australasian gannet. Fortunately for the skinks, gannet numbers appear to be increasing.

Urgent action required

Monitoring of skink numbers has been occuring for several years. The island itself is reserved within Tasmania's World Heritage Area. The latest surveys of this skink indicate a serious population decline, probably due to dramatic increases in seagull predation.

View Distribution Map