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Extinct Western Serpentiform Skink Spotted in Kenya

Sep 23, 2015 01:11 PM EDT

Reclusive skink lizards have long been thought to be extinct. That is, until now. A tourist visiting the Masai Mara in Kenya recently photographed this rare reptile slithering along the side of the road.

"These are the first photographs of a living specimen Western Serpentiform skink. The only other pictures available show dead ones," Dr. Phillip Wagner, of the Lindenhof Conservation Centre in Bavaria, said in a statement. "We don't know how rare the species is because it is very hard to find."

This skink (Eumecia anchietae) appears to be a snake, but its four tiny legs classify it as a lizard. This species also has a notched tongue, unlike the forked tongues of snakes. The one seen in Masai Mara was roughly 20 inches long.

These lizards are generally found in remote grasslands of Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania. They feed on insects and spiders and are harmless to humans.

At the time the photos were taken, both the ranger and tourist, Sjoerd van Berge Henegouwen, were unable to identify the species. When Henegouwen posted them on his Facebook page, Dr. Wagner identified the lizard. These photos will be published in a book Dr. Wagner is writing about reptiles in Africa.

A video of the find can be found online

Some other skink species include the Eastern blue-tongued lizard, the prehensile-tailed skink, and the Australian and Indian skinks. Skinks can be found throughout the world, but the most diverse is the smooth-bodied skinks of Southeast Asia. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Samantha on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13

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