Australia’s Eastern Water Dragon

Still about the smallest continent, Australia’s eastern water dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii), an endemic species, is truly a memorable sight. Reaching up to 90 centimetres, this large lizard from the Agamidae family is very shy when living in the wild, but readily accepts human presence in suburban parks and gardens. As the name suggests, the water dragon is a semi-aquatic animal that can be found near creeks, rivers and lakes, although it is also an excellent climber of trees. It is often observed basking on branches that hang over a body of water; that way it can easily escape danger by simply falling off the branch to the water below. It feeds mostly on insects, small mammals, lizards and frogs.

Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii)

We came across this gorgeous specimen in the Cairns Tropical Zoo. It wasn’t part of the stock, however, as it was living freely around a small creek that flowed through the animal park. It was late afternoon and most visitors had left by then, so the dragon felt confident enough to wander onto the empty wooden bridge. It was right in the middle of it when we arrived. The lizard tried to flee quickly, but was trapped in the narrow walkway with fences on both sides. My niece was very keen to pick it up for a brief photo shoot, but the animal was visibly distressed by the handling, so she let it go shortly afterwards. I took a few more photos before gently directing it towards the end of the bridge where it finally found security in tall vegetation.

Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii)

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