I LOVE MY DRAGONS! Dragons of Sydney Harbour Factsheet Kids Version

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1 I LOVE MY DRAGONS! Dragons of Sydney Harbour Factsheet Kids Version Did you know that we have dragons living right at our doorstep around the beautiful Sydney harbour? That s right! These beasts sure have a good taste for excellent view, don t they? They are known as the Eastern water dragons (Intellagama lesueurii lesueurii), one of the two sub-species of water dragons found in Australia. They are also found in urban areas in Canberra and Brisbane, and other areas stretching north up to Cooktown, Queensland. These dragons may not be spitting fire or surrounded by knights in shining armour and princesses with tiaras, but they definitely have some awesome cool traits of their own. Tell me more The semi-aquatic Eastern water dragon is comfortable living both on land and in water; enjoying the best of both worlds. Being a day active species (diurnal), the Eastern water dragon can often be seen chilling out on logs, tree branches overhanging water courses (e.g. rivers and creeks), and rocks on a warm day soaking up some sunshine. In the water, they can stay submerged for up to 90 minutes staying perfectly still until the danger passes. Can you imagine us staying under water for that long with no oxygen tank! How can the dragons do this? Their nostrils are perfectly placed on their snouts allowing them to peek out of the water to breathe while the whole body is submerged in the water for a long time. They even sleep submerged in the water! The Eastern water dragons are also excellent swimmers and climbers. Their strong and muscular long tails help them to propel effortlessly when in water while their powerful claws and limbs help them get up on the tree branches to bask happily in the warm sun. Here is another interesting fact for you. Male dragons are territorial. When they come in contact with an intruder, the dragons bob their heads up and down to warn the others not to come any closer. A fast arm-waving signal is also used to demonstrate their dominance. How can I tell it is an Eastern water dragon? Eastern water dragons are grey-brown to olive green in colour. Their underside can vary between creamy-white to creamy-brown. Adult males have a red chest and throat and tend to be more colourful than females. The length of an adult male Eastern water dragon can vary between 80 to 90 cm (snout to the end of the tail), with two-thirds of the length comprising just their tail! Females are slightly smaller and can grow up to 60 cm in length. Males weigh up to 1 kg and females half that weight. Colour, check! Length, check! What else? Eastern water dragons also have a Head Office: PO Box 337, Newtown NSW 2042 Ph Fax ABN

2 thick black stripe running from behind its eye extending up to its ears. Starting from the base of their head, a row of spikes runs centrally down their spine. These spikes get smaller as it continues down the tail s base. Can you spot a dragon the next time when you are up and about? What do they eat? Eastern water dragons are omnivorous. Omnivorous species eat both plant and animal matter. The diet of this dragon varies from berries, flowers, fruits (e.g. figs, lilly-pilly fruits), frogs, insects (e.g. cicadas, mosquitoes), yabbies and worms. Yum! Are there any threats to the dragons? In urban areas, littering and predation by domestic animals pose as threats to Eastern water dragons. Littering As they rely on water to hide from predators and go to bed at night, water quality is critical to their survival. Littering poses a big threat to their habitat as it affects the quality of both their land and water habitats. As the litter breaks down, various pollutants (e.g. dangerous chemicals) are released into the ground that eventually runs off into nearby water sources making it toxic for animals to live or hunt in it. Polluted grounds are also a great catalyst for the spread of weeds. Many of the weeds are highly toxic to many animal species and have the ability to aggressively replace our beloved native plant species, which in turn impacts the food available for the Eastern water dragons. Predation In urban areas, the Eastern water dragons are exposed to predation threats from domestic dogs, foxes, and cats. Walking dogs without a leash and bringing them into protected natural areas can result in the injury or death of the dragons from unwanted encounters. In the wild, Eastern water dragons are preyed on by snakes, such as Brown tree snakes and the Common death adder and predatory birds like the Laughing kookaburras and Butcherbirds. Keeping Dragons as pets Removing Eastern Water Dragons or any other native wildlife from its natural habitat is illegal in Australia. There have been many cases of Dragons poached to be kept as pets or sold overseas, particularly around Manly. Offenders may get a fine of $3300 and imprisoned up to 6 months if caught for stealing a Water Dragon. How can I help? Spread the word You have made a great start by participating in our Dragons of Sydney Harbour project. Well done you awesome citizen scientist! Now you can continue this great step by spreading the good word to your family, friends and anyone really. Share your fascinating encounters with the dragons and tell them about all the cool things you have learned by being part of this project. 2

3 Look for other opportunities Keep a lookout for more upcoming activities and come along to give a helping hand. There will be plenty of opportunities to do more bush regeneration work, future citizen science surveys and even take part in a clean-up day with your family and friends. Walking dogs By using designated places to walk your dogs and always using a leash will make a huge difference. This way, you have directly made a big contribution to reduce a possible life threatening encounter for the dragons. Report any theft of native wildlife If you witness anyone causing harm or illegally removing a native wildlife from its natural habitat, please report it to your local council or dial

4 Dragon Worksheet: How can you identify an Eastern water dragon? Can you think of other suitable habitats for a semi-aquatic lizard like an Eastern water dragon? Why does a Water dragon love the sun? Can you guess what other things a dragon might like to eat? 4

5 What is threatening our Eastern water dragons? What can you do to help? Did you get all the answers? Well done! You are definitely a dragon s friend 5

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