Giant Zonure, Giant Girdled Lizard,
Giant Dragon Lizard, Ouvolk (Afrikaans)
Length: up to 35-40cm
Key identification features (adult)
This is the largest of the girdled lizards. It is brown in
colour on the upper surface; merging to straw/yellow
colouring along the side of the body and yellow
underneath. This lizard has four very large, spiny scales on
the back of the head. Along the body the dorsal (back)
scales are larger than the lateral (side) scales, which are
Smaller but still spiny. The tail has whorls of large, very
Spinose (spiny) scales, decreasing in size from the base to
the tip. Juveniles are generally similar than adults but with
Patches of orange-brown on the body.
WHY ARE SUNGAZERS THREATENED?
Sungazers only reproduce every other year, and only produce one or two live born young. The population is in decline due to habitat destruction as a result of conversion of grassland to farmland (maize, sunflower and other crop farming), mining and illegal collecting for the pet trade and muti (traditional medicine) trades. Conversion/transformation (especially plowing) of native grassland is the biggest threat to the species.
Sungazers eat insects, especially beetles. Juveniles eat predominantly ants and other small insects.
Sungazers, unlike other girdled lizards which live on rocks, make shallow burrows in open grassland. They are diurnal (active during the day) and are often seen basking on the ground near the burrow or, less often, on a termite mound.
They live in colonies and dig burrows into the silty soil of the highveld Themeda grassland in South Africa. The name Sungazer comes from their habit of sitting at the burrow entrance looking
up at the sun. They hibernate (dormant state similar to sleep) during the winter and are rarely seen at all between May and mid August.
Sungazers are endemic (only found in one particular country or geographic area) to South Africa. It is found in the highland grasslands of the north eastern Free State as well as a small population in south western Mpumalanga. The population status is unknown but thought to be declining. Globally and nationally they are currently classified as Vulnerable (IUCN Red List).
Find out more at http://www.iucnredlist.org or http://www.sungazers.co.za
WHAT IS THE EWT DOING TO CONSERVE SUNGAZERS?
The EWT is initially re-assessing the population status of the species in order to update the IUCN Red List status which was last assessed in 1996. Following this, a Biodiversity Management Plan for the species will be developed in order to prioritize the conservation requirements of this species. Key habitat (with large populations) will be conserved through biodiversity stewardship. Finally, we are motivating for the Sungazer to be recognized as South Africa’s National Lizard!
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Assist with the improved awareness of the need for ecologically friendly farming practices. Do not encourage the keeping of reptiles as pets (especially
indigenous species, which is not legal). Sponsorship is required for extensive field work, education, conservation implementation and awareness. Support
conservation organizations such as the Endangered Wildlife Trust – or contact:
Senior Field Officer, Threatened Grassland Species Programme