12 May 2023

Cooma's Men's Shed helps save dragons

| Gail Eastaway
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Members of the Cooma Men's Shed with ecologist Rob Armstrong.

Members of Cooma’s Men’s Shed with ecologist Rob Armstrong starting work on tube construction for Earless Dragons conservation. Photo: Gail Eastaway.

Members of Cooma’s Men’s Shed are channelling their wild side, helping save the rare Monaro Grassland Earless Dragon by creating artificial spider hole habitat across the Monaro Plains.

Senior threatened species officer with the Department of Planning and Environment, Rob Armstrong, coordinated a workshop on 9 May in a truly grassroots effort to save this grassland dwelling species from extinction.

He emphasised the significance of this small reptile, as not only being endangered, but also as an indicator of the health of the local ecosystem.

Conditions have to be just right for the dragon to survive.

He said the future of the dragon required an across-the-board effort, from landholders, Local Land Services and the general public to increase awareness of its existence and help protect its habitat.

Cooma Men’s Shed has been involved through their previous assistance to Jerangle Public School and its connection to Saving Our Species co-ordinator Melanie Sim.

A former Cooma resident, Ms Sim’s connection to the shed’s members, has led to a happy collaboration.

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The shed members went straight to work on 9 May, and in true Men’s Shed traditions, had plenty of questions to ask and suggestions to make.

“The Cooma Men’s Shed members are literally coming to the rescue of this tiny but mighty dragon, found only on the Monaro grasslands,” Mr Armstrong said.

“These small, 7-15 centimetre long reptiles like living in holes or burrows created by wolf spiders as they are the perfect size and offer ideal protection from predators.

Ecologist Rom Armstrong with David Eldred.

Ecologist Rob Armstrong with Cooma Men’s Shed member David Eldred at a workshop to assist Earless Dragons on 9 May. Photo: Gail Eastaway.

“With changes to the grasslands through the spread of weeds, intensified wetting and drying cycles and various pasture modification, we are seeing a decline in species habitat.

“The Men’s Shed have kindly agreed to create artificial spider burrows that will be placed in paddocks across the region, that we’ll then check as part of our regular survey efforts to better understand where these dragons occur,” Mr Armstrong said.

The artificial burrows are 15-centimetre-long narrow tubes made from PVC piping and bonded sand to enable the reptile to crawl in and out.

The sand-lined inner tube sits inside a broader tube and will be buried in the soil so only the top opening is visible.

The tubes will be located using a GPS system which identifies the location of each row.

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The Monaro Grassland Earless Dragon is found in treeless paddocks with open space between grass tussocks, and rock cover for shelter and basking.

Landholders and the public can help protect the dragon by retaining areas of native pasture, managing weeds and refraining from removing rocks from paddocks.

Mr Armstrong announced a donation to the Cooma Men’s Shed, in the form of vouchers from local hardware stores, to the value of $1000, to thank members for their assistance.

For more information on how you can help this species, visit the NSW Environment website.

If you think you’ve seen a Monaro Grassland Earless Dragon on your property and would like further information, please email [email protected]

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