The Snake-eyed Skink fighting the Black Pine
20 August 2013 | Article
The Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) is one of the rarest and most endangered reptile species in Croatia, where it has small area of occupancy and is threatened by the habitat destruction. The Nature Park Papuk and Croatian Herpetological Society-Hyla have been working on its conservation for the last three years, revealing the invasive Black Pine (Pinus nigra) spreading as one of its major threats.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ lists the Snake-eyed Skink as Least Concern (LC) globally, due to its wide distribution, tolerance of a degree of habitat modification, and presumed large population. It is generally a common species, but it is notably rarer at the edges of its range – that include the most eastern parts of continental Croatia.
The field visits to the Papuk Mountain led to the conclusion that the Snake-eyed Skink is distributed in a very narrow area of the peak zone on Turjak and Pliš Mountains (~ 20 ha), and that a real problem is posed by the invasive and initially planted Black Pine (Pinus nigra) overgrowing the habitats. The next steps included habitat restoration - about 50 Black Pine trees were removed, as well as a number of saplings of different sizes in order to connect the two sections of habitat and prevent further overgrowth. Restoration action involved students from local school, thus serving the educational purposes.
A partial return of indigenous vegetation occurred in the course of 2012, and was followed by the reappearance of sections of fauna, including the Snake-eyed Skink. The Croatian Herpetological Society-Hyla is currently preparing an expert assessment for introduction (relocation) of Snake-eyed Skinks from the two known peaks (Turjak and Pliš) to two new ones with the same habitat type and no record of this species so far. The goal is to enlarge the species’ habitat while creating several independent populations. This will be the first example of introduction (relocation) done in conservation purposes in Croatia.