Telfair’s Skink

Leiolopisma telfairii

Photo: Dr. Nik Cole

Telfair’s Skink

Species type: Reptile
Species (Common name): Telfair’s Skink or Round Island Skink
Scientific name: Leiolopisma telfairii
Endemism: Endemic to Mauritius
Conservation status: Vulnerable

Description: Telfair’s Skink is about 30-40 cm in length and has a stocky appearance. It is a brownish grey colour and sometimes has a mottled appearance. Its tail can regenerate and the tails of many individuals have become forked as a result. It eats insects and small lizards (including other Telfair’s) as well as seeds and fruits.

Fun facts:

  1. Telfair’s Skink is also known as the Round Island Skink as Round Island provided the last refuge for the species which became extinct from the Mauritian mainland.
  2. The Telfair, after whom the skink is named, is Charles Edward Telfair an Irish Botanist who was the honorary curator of the botanical garden at Pamplemousses from 1826 to 1829 and founder of the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences of Mauritius.
  3. The other two Leiolopisma species from Mauritius the Mauritian giant skink (L. mauritiana) and the Réunion Island skink (Leiolopisma ceciliae) are both long extinct leaving the closest living relatives of Telfair’s skink on distant New Caledonia and New Zealand.
  4. Numbers of Telfair’s skinks on Round Island were diminishing due to a loss of habitat caused by introduced goats and rabbits. Gerald Durrell recorded 5,000 individuals when he visited Round Island in the 1970s. Following the eradication of goats from Round Island in 1979 and rabbits in 1986 the population of skinks has grown rapidly to an estimated 26,000 individuals.
  5. Telfair’s skinks have been translocated from Round Island to form new populations on the protected offshore islands of Gunners Quoin (Coin de Mire) and Ile aux Aigrettes. Gunners Quoin is free of introduced predators but Ile aux Aigrettes has a population of the introduced Indian house shrew (rat musqué) which can prey on young skinks. This is likely to be the reason that the skink population has grown more quickly on Gunners Quoin than on Ile aux Aigrettes.