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New lizard discovered in Paraguay lives only on private reserve that is up for sale

  • André Luiz G. Carvalho of the American Museum of Natural History in New York described the three new species — T. lagunablanca, T. tarara, and T. teyumirim — in a paper published in the journal American Museum Novitates.
  • Tropidurus lagunablanca was first discovered by Fundacion Para La Tierra, a conservation NGO in Paraguay. The lizard was named after the Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca and has been designated as critically endangered because its range does not appear to extend beyond the 120-hectare protected area.
  • the Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca is privately owned, and has lost its official protected status

Tropidurus is a ubiquitous genus of lizard endemic to South America, and now there are three new species amongst its ranks.

André Luiz G. Carvalho of the American Museum of Natural History in New York described the three new species — T. lagunablanca, T. tarara, and T. teyumirim — in a paper published in the journal American Museum Novitates. Carvalho identified the new species after collecting numerous Tropidurus specimens during a three-month expedition in Paraguay in 2013.

One of those newly described species is already facing an uncertain future, however.

Tropidurus lagunablanca was first discovered by Fundacion Para La Tierra, a conservation NGO in Paraguay. The lizard was named after the Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca and has been designated as critically endangered because its range does not appear to extend beyond the 120-hectare protected area, according to Joseph Sarvary, Para La Tierra’s deputy director.

“This would be unequivocally good news, were it not for the fact that the reserve is up for sale and under threat of being converted into a cattle ranch,” Sarvary told Mongabay.

Tropidurus lagunablanca female. Photo by Emma Northcote-Smith.

Though its range is small, the T. lagunablanca population appears to be stable, at least for the time being, Sarvary said. “We are pleased that over this summer we have seen a large number of juveniles crawling about the trees near our station, which suggests the population is still healthy despite its small range.”

But the Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca is privately owned and has lost its official protected status, Sarvary added. After Para La Tierra was founded in April of 2010, the organization worked with the landowners and the government of Paraguay to get the property and its wildlife formal protection, which was granted later that year when the land was awarded official recognition as a nature reserve. That recognition expired in 2015, however, and was not renewed by the landowners.

“The landowners are no longer interested in the site’s long-term conservation and have put the land up for sale,” Sarvary said. “Paraguay’s economy is heavily based on primary production of soy and cattle, so there is a substantial chance that the land will be sold to cattle ranchers or soy farmers.”

Laguna Blanca is home to the largest number of reptile and amphibian species of any site in Paraguay, including reserves that are much larger, according to Sarvary. “The area is also home to 10 globally threatened species and five globally near threatened species, including the White-winged Nightjar, an enigmatic species which is only known from three places across the world.”

Para La Tierra is working with several other conservation organizations to prepare a fundraising campaign to ensure the long-term protection of Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca and all of its inhabitants.

“We hope that the discovery and description of [T. lagunablanca] will aid us in our fight to protect this amazing oasis of biodiversity and attract more international awareness to a forgotten corner of South America,” Sarvary said.

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