Damage to Australia's ecosystem from fires is catastrophic, not just for mammals, but for reptiles too

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) "Australia has so many incredible reptiles and we think they're kind of cute too. I mean look at that face," said Director of Social Media at Reptile Gardens, Julia Kittelson.

Lovely Lucy is an Australian Perentie Monitor Lizard. She is part of a breeding program at Reptile Gardens. (KOTA)

With bush fires raging across the continent, the amount of damage to Australia's ecosystem is potentially catastrophic -- not just for mammals, but for reptiles like Australian perentie monitor lizard, Lovely Lucy.

"Anytime you have large scale, catastrophic fires like this you really are going to have an enormous loss of life. Not just for the cute, cuddly koalas, but also for these cute, cuddly perentie monitors," said Reptile Curator at Reptile Gardens, Terry Phillip.

Lovely Lucy is an Australian perentie monitor, the fourth largest lizard in the world -- but she's not the only reptile from Australia at Reptile Gardens.

Stumpy is a shingleback lizard, sometimes known as the pine cone lizard, native to Australia.

"Australia is this unique environment, not just with unique mammals and other marsupials, but with reptiles. When they're gone, they're gone. They are not found any other place in the world," said Phillip.

Philip says protecting the animals is important, but protecting their home is essential to life.

"You know you have to protect the wildlife, but most importantly you have to protect the habitat, without the habitat or a place for these animals to live, they're not going to," said Phillip.

Because of the close relationship Reptile Gardens has with many animals and zoos in Australia, they donated one thousand dollars to the Foundation for Austalia's Most Endangered Species.

"We have so many different Australian animals in our collection so we felt there was kind of a connection there," said Kittelson.