'Horrendous' statistic affecting iconic Aussie lizards

Because the lizards hide their pain, many people misjudge the seriousness of their trauma.

Dogs have savaged 49 stocky lizards in southwest Perth, leaving the placid creatures dead and dying with “horrendous” wounds.

Over the last month, soaring numbers of the native reptiles have been sent to a specialty veterinary centre so bite wounds could be assessed. Locally they're known as bobtails, and they have a special place in the hearts of many Western Australians.

Images supplied to Yahoo News by volunteers at Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre show the faces of individual animals maimed in the attacks. Some survive after they are patched and bandaged, but statistically most bobtails admitted into care are too injured to survive.

Twenty images of bobtail lizards that have been attacked by dogs.
These are the sad faces of bobtail lizards admitted with dog bite injuries. Source: Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Bobtail injuries by the numbers

Of the 49 bobtails vet staff examined, 23 were euthanised on compassionate grounds, while five died on the treatment table moments after admission. With the reptiles known to often live over 20 years of age, Kanyana's hospital manager Tasha Rea said it’s “really taxing” to see them killed in such a traumatic way.

“We do have some bobtails where the dog is very gentle and has just taken it to its parents,” she said.

“But usually bobtails get through some horrendous injuries and go through a hell of a lot of pain. Some dogs are very aggressive. Initially, they’ll bite them multiple times, and then quite often shake them and break their spines.”

Sadly, because bobtails are so stoic, members of the public who witness attacks often misjudge the severity of the attacks. And that's a key reason all injured reptiles receive a medical assessment as soon as possible.

“They won’t really show pain. Some will be defensive and try to bite you, but most will just pretend they’re absolutely fine. They could have a gaping hole in their side, or something broken and they’ll just keep on walking,” Rea said.

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What's behind the dog attacks?

While the dog attacks are “hugely taxing” for both rescue volunteers and medical staff, the high number of lizards being brought in for care could be a good thing to some degree.

Increased awareness about free treatment options for injured wildlife could be resulting in more animals being brought to Kanyana for help. But the contributor to the problem is more grim. Increased urbanisation means humans and dogs are entering regions that were once safe habitat for the lizards.

“Unfortunately, a lot of it is humans encroaching into their territories and it's causing more and more problems,” Rea said.

“Some days are really difficult, we have them coming in just one after the other. But we know we can help end their suffering. They get pain relief, they get sedation, we can keep them nice and warm.”

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