Threatened species breeding programs
The most successful captive breeding programs in Parks Australia history have taken place on Christmas Island with Parks Australia staff there responsible for bringing two critically endangered reptiles back from the brink of extinction.
Lister’s geckos and blue-tailed skinks were widespread on Christmas Island until the 1990s, when their numbers started drastically declining. Introduced predators including the giant centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes) and wolf snake (Lycodon capucinus) are believed to be responsible.
After recognising a dramatic decline in the species, Christmas Island National Park staff captured 43 Lister’s geckos and 66 blue-tailed skinks before initiating a captive breeding program in 2010.
The program has been hugely successful in boosting the numbers of these threatened reptiles with captive bred populations held at both Christmas Island and at Taronga Zoo in Sydney.
In 2019 after years of soft releases in predator proof exclosures on Christmas Island 300 blue-tail skinks were selected and gifted their own tropical island Pulu Blan, in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands group after support from the Cocos community.
This pilot translocation of the blue-tailed skinks to this predator-free island has allowed the species to return to the wild having been in captivity for a decade. Although a return to the wild on Christmas Island is still not possible due to the presence of introduced predators, further translocations to other islands in the Cocos (Keeling) group are planned.