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Lauan Ground Skink (Leiolopisma alazon)

Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 10251593

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation (Project No. 10251593) - Lauan Ground Skink - Awarded $7,000 on August 17, 2011

The USGS will be leading the project in collaboration with the National Trust Fiji (NTF) and NatureFiji-MareqetiViti. As one of the world’s premier science agencies, the USGS has long recognized the mutual benefits resulting from interaction with scientific partners abroad and extending research and investigations to other countries. Much can be learned about fundamental principles of science and applications of science and technology by looking at global perspectives. In fact the strategic science themes of USGS are inherently global in nature and need international collaboration in order to make scientific progress. The mission statement from the NTF is to consolidate, enhance and reinforce the role of the NTF in the conservation, protection, sustainable management and research of Fiji's natural and cultural heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the peoples of Fiji, the Pacific Islands and the world. The project will take place on the southernmost islands of Fiji, in the Ono-I-Lau complex. The USGS works on many species and habitats in the US and abroad. NTF works throughout Fiji and in partnership with neighboring nations. 

The skinks are known only from one collection made by Dr. George Zug during a Smithsonian Institute expedition to the Ono-I-Lau Islands in 1982.  Nothing is known about the skinks since this time and no photos of live specimens have ever been taken.  During 2011 we will conduct a trip to the Ono-I-Lau islands and survey as many as possible to determine if this species is still extant.  We will also determine what potential threats might exist on the islands where it is found, and what factors might be responsible for its absence on islands where it is not detected.  Potential threats include rats, yellow crazy ants, cats, pig, and habitat disturbance.  Since this is a low-lying atoll future climate change might impact long term viability of this species if forest is lost as sea level rises.  Comparing the forest to photos take by Dr. Zug in 1982 will at least give us a qualitative assessment as to the similarity in the forest over a 30 year period.

If these skinks are detected then conservation priorities can be developed for them to ensure they persist into the future.

Project 10251593 location - Fiji, Oceania