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Blue-Tongue Lizard
Eastern Water dragon
Goulds Goanna

The Eastern Water Dragon

Physignathus lesueurii

Video file by Sharon McGrigor

By Rhianna Blackthorn

Image by Alicia Carter

The Eastern Water Dragon is found from Cooktown in Queensland, throughout New South Wales, and Eastern Victoria. There are two known forms - the Eastern and the Gippsland. The Gippsland form is only found in the Gippsland area of Victoria, and are notably different in colouration and size. Compared to other dragons, the Eastern Water Dragon is quite long lived, having a life span of around 20 years in the wild.

Appearance and Characteristics.

Growing up to a meter in length, the impressive Water Dragon is the largest of the dragon species in Australia. It is especially adapted to an aquatic life, with a long tail that is up to two thirds of its length, and nostrils right on top of its nose. Whenever threatened, he will take to the water, where he can submerge from several minutes up to an hour to escape predators or climb a tree using his powerful legs and long claws.
The males of this species are recognizable by their bright red chest which grows in colour intensity in breeding season. Both males and females have a row of spines that start at the top of the head and run all the way down the body and tail, giving them a prehistoric look.
The Water Dragon’s upper body is a gray-green with cream and black transverse bands on the body and tail. Underneath the body is creamy brown-grey. They have loose folds of skin under the jaw, giving them an almost Bearded Dragon appearance for which they are often mistaken. The easiest way to differentiate between the two species is the location of the spines. If the spines run perfectly down the back from the skull to the tail, like a crest, then the animal is a Water Dragon.

Reproductive Cycle.

During the mating season, males chests grow in colour intensity to a bright vibrant red colouration. The males will fight for territory rights during this period, with the battles becoming very violent. It is not uncommon for some males to have significant injuries. Once the dominant male has been found, he will mate with all females in his territory.
After mating, the female digs a hole into the soft sand along the river bank where she lays about 15 - 25 eggs. She then abandons the eggs, and plays no active role in parenting. Depending on the temperature of the egg chamber, they can take up to three months to hatch. The hatchlings are miniature replicas of their parents, and are totally independent from birth.

Diet and Habitat.

The Eastern Water Dragon is always found in or near water. They are never found without a reliable water source near by, and will not venture far from the safety of their watery homes.
Feeding on a variety of insects, aquatic life, small reptiles and frogs, he is also known to eat fruits and other vegetation.


Alex Wilson
Sharon McGrigor
Alex Wilson
Sharon McGrigor

Shedding skin

Alex Wilson

Alex Wilson
Sharon McGrigor
Sharon McGrigor
Sharon McGrigor
Sharon McGrigor
Sharon McGrigor
Sharon McGrigor



February 22

Ringy the Water Dragon survives strangulation

In mid January this year residents at the village at Southern Cross Drive in Ballina noticed one of the many water dragons seemed to be wearing a less than glamorous adornment. On closer inspection it became clear that the poor guy had managed to somehow get his head stuck through the safety seal ring of a discarded bottle.

Judging by the size of the ring and the dragon it appears that he may have been wearing his necklace for quite some time, however it was now clearly approaching restriction and needed to be removed.

WIRES were called to assist, however catching an agile water dragon is no easy task when he has many nooks and crannies to his advantage. 

WIRES maintained regular contact with resident Jan, but “Mr Ringy” proved elusive.
Trapping was the only way to contain the lizard.

Resident Jan was provided with a cage trap and string and, thanks to her endless effort and patience, she finally managed to secure the patient almost 5 weeks after reporting the concern.


After a visit from a volunteer reptile handler from WIRES the ring was carefully cut and removed and the Water dragon was assessed and released.

Ringy’s story is a good reminder that a careless approach to our litter can cause great distress to the local wildlife. Please remember to cut all safety seal rings before discarding.

By Martin Fitzgerald & Renata Phelps
Images by Sara Matheson



Updated March 2021  

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