Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons

Project Animal(s) : Agamid Lizard
Project Category : Reptiles
Project Region : Asia
Project Type : Research
Project URL :
Project is timebound? : No

Aim: Conserving Sri Lanka’s Unique and Endemic Agamid Lizards Outside the Protected Area Network.

Nineteen (90%) out of the 21 Sri Lankan Agamid species are endemic and nearly 60% of these are threatened with extinction. Several species are restricted to a single small (<100 km2) locality (‘microendemics’), but due to ever-increasing habitat loss, even broadly-distributed species may undergo decline. In this backdrop, I identified three critical research gaps that impede agamid conservation in Sri Lanka. Firstly, we have minimal information on Agamid distributions outside protected areas (trees-outside-forests), including novel ecosystems sustained by substantial anthropogenic influence. Numerous studies have underpinned the importance of trees-outside-forests for biodiversity conservation elsewhere, therefore, systematic surveys in unprotected landscapes are prudent. This need is more urgent and prominent in the biodiversity-rich, but also rapidly urbanizing wet zone of Sri Lanka where the lowlands and three mountainous regions (Central Highlands, Rakwana Range, and Knuckles Range) harbor >80% of Sri Lankan Agamids. Secondly, almost all Sri Lankan Agamids lack detailed ecological data that are salient in making informed decisions on habitat management and wildlife policies. Thirdly, conservation assessments of Sri Lankan Agamids are based on neither quantitative information nor spatially-explicit distribution mapping. Scientifically-robust, systematic, and spatially-explicit data are imperative to make informed conservation decisions and policy revisions.

Then I will conduct extensive field surveys covering previously-mentioned ecoregions to fulfil the gaps. In a given ecoregion, I will survey a total of 12 spatially-independent locations; these survey locations will represent different major habitat types: unprotected wilderness, human-settled rural areas and villages, forest plantations, home gardens, croplands, primary and secondary forests, and other novel ecosystems resulting from secondary successions. At each ecoregion, I will survey 12 locations that are stratified across different habitat types found outside protected areas in a given year. My survey will span for two years, and in each year, we will cover all 48 sampling locations once, and repeat the same in the following year. After the project period, I’m confident that I can gather following information: Identification of critical Agamid habitats outside protected areas of the wet zone; Detailed information on Agamid ecology; Assessment of their conservation status; and Recommendation for conservation of Agamids in Sri Lanka.

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Project Researcher : Suranjan Karunarathna

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