Sungazer Conservation Project

To promote the survival of sungazers in South Africa


Sungazer (or giant girdled lizard, Smaug giganteus) conservation status was last formally assessed in 1996. Recent assessments have taken place but these have been based on data that are around two decades old. The species is currently recognised as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, is endemic to South Africa's interior grasslands and is very sensitive to habitat disturbance (especially crop agriculture). The geographic range of the species coincides with the agricultural production centre of the country with extensive wheat, sunflower and other crops as well as commercial livestock farming, resulting in considerable fragmentation of intact habitat and extensive loss of habitat for the species. Sungazers are destroyed by and do not recolonise after an area has been ploughed.


The objectives of the project are:


  • to reassess the conservation status of the species;
  • to identify population hotspots for conservation attention through conservation stewardship and the development of a Sungazer Natural Heritage Site;
  • to increase landowner and local conservation authority awareness of the conservation requirements and plight of the species;
  • to monitor and control the trade in the species;
  • to conserve and secure sufficient viable habitat for the future of the species in its natural environment.


WAZA Conservation Project 11017 is implemented by the Endangered Wildlife Trust, with support provided by the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa and Johannesburg Zoo. Other stakeholders involved in the project include the University of the Witwatersrand, University of the Free State and Tshwane University of Technology.


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