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South African sungazer

Sungazers, named after their habit of doing just that, are a threatened ground dwelling lizard found only in South Africa. Both them and the grassland they live in are under serious threat.

The problem

Sungazers are unique to South Africa and are classified as Vulnerable according to the IUCN.

Sungazers’ grassy homeland is being rapidly destroyed to make way for mining and agriculture. The lizards are also harvested for the illegal pet trade as they cannot reproduce in captivity so each pet is plucked from the wild.

As wild Sungazers only produce one or two offspring every two years, both of these threats have a hugely detrimental effect on the whole population.

The solution

sungazer researchers by EWT

Examining Sungazer burrows and collecting scales for genetic studies

We are funding work to conserve the remaining grasslands within the highland grasslands of South Africa. The land will be secured using the ‘conservation stewardship approach’, a process whereby private landowners legally proclaim their properties as conservation areas to be protected.

This is urgent work is being carried out along side the development of a (National) Biodiversity Management Plan for Sungazers. Research into how to successfully relocate Sungazers from damaged land to protected areas will be carried out to ensure the most efficient and effective methods are adopted.

sungazer education programme by EWT

Teaching children about Sungazer lizards and their need for conservation on a visit to the Mbumazi Game farm, Free State

Our project will also explore and address the threat of illegal trade in this species, both the pet and traditional medicine trade, through education and awareness.

Together this work will give Sungazers a brighter future in South Africa.

Latest updates

You can see the Sungazer Conservation Project Final report here.

  • Watch our Sungazer work featured on South African news channel SABC TV :

  • The landowners approached so far for site assessments are very happy that they have Sungazers on their farms and have showed great enthusiasm to work with us to protect them and their homes.

Let's keep in touch...

We'd love to tell you about our conservation work through our regular newsletter Wildlife World, and also how you can save endangered species through volunteering, taking action or donating. You must be 18 or over. The information that you provide will be held by People’s Trust for Endangered Species. For information on how PTES processes personal data, please see our privacy policy.

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