Safeguarding stretches of the striped legless lizard's native grassland habitat has been the undoing of many redevelopment proposals in the ACT.
A pioneering relocation scheme for the rare reptile is now under way however the ACT government has been quick to quell views moving the vulnerable species would open up development opportunities.
Canberrans that spot 800 clay roof tiles strewn across plots on grassland near Canberra's Exhibition Park would be forgiven for wondering what's going on.
Sun-warmed ceramics, which reptiles love to crawl under, are being used as rescue tools by Bush Heritage staff busily capturing 200 vulnerable striped legged lizards before the site is flattened to make way for a 480-bed tourist and caravan park.
Bush Heritage project co-ordinator Brett Howland said teams were flipping tiles and bagging the lizards which would otherwise perish from salvage sites on Old Wells Station Road north of EPIC and at a grassland site on Flemington Road east of the Gungahlin town centre.
So far 38 lizards had been rescued and taken to Scottsdale Reserve, 75 kilometres south of Canberra, and collection would continue until late November.
Mr Howland said north Canberra was a "stronghold" for the species but without taking the risk to test relocation and population boosting projects, its future was bleak.
"It has lost 99 per cent of its primary habitat across South Eastern Australia," he said.
"The advantage of Scottsdale is that we believe the animal was there but was lost due to heavy grazing and ploughing. It is an opportunity to put back a species that was lost from that landscape and to learn about that."
The ACT government is supportive of the relocation program's potential and will contribute research funding toward ongoing monitoring of the lizards' survival at the release site.
However a government spokesman confirmed the relocation scheme was "not expected cause the opening up of land for development or development proposals."
"Development proposals in the ACT are required to be assessed under Commonwealth and ACT environmental legislation for impacts on protected flora and fauna including striped legless lizard," the spokesman said.
"The relocation of striped legless lizard as a means of seeking development approval is currently not supported in the ACT."