When JRR Tolkien completed his sketch, Death of Smaug, for The Hobbit in the early 1930s‚ he was illustrating a work of fiction. But it turns out he was being prophetic‚ too.Tolkien‚ born in Bloemfontein in 1892‚ spent his first three years in the Free State where sungazer lizards — reputed to have been his inspiration for the dragon Smaug — are now under threat of extinction.The spiky 20cm lizards‚ which look into the sun as they bask‚ are in rapid decline thanks to farming and the global pet trade."There was recently a case of a suitcase from SA being intercepted in Schiphol airport in Amsterdam containing about 15 live sungazers‚ said Shivan Parusnath‚ a PhD student at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits)‚ who conducted a conservation assessment of the species for his master’s research.He found that numbers had declined by more than a third over the past decade‚ and that just under half of the sungazers’ tiny habitat in the Free State and Mpumalanga had been irreversibly tr...

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