Getting to know the local wildlife: Water Dragons in and around State Library

The weather is getting warmer, perfect for a stroll around the Cultural Precinct, a visit to State Library of Queensland to enjoy some of our terrific exhibitions and perhaps a coffee and a bite to eat at our Library Café. Later, if you find yourself stretching out for a rest on the Maiwar Green, not only can you take in the sunshine, the lush grass, the sounds of the precinct and beautiful views of the Brisbane River, you can enjoy the company of some of our resident reptiles.

Water dragons are a regular feature of the Maiwar Green and around the Talking Circle in kuril dhagun. After spending many a lunch break with our scaly pals, we have come to learn a thing or two about their personalities and quirks. After hearing stories from my colleagues, what’s clear is that our dragons are a talented and multi-skilled bunch. Here are just some of their amazing abilities.

Posing, playing it cool

Our dragons are quite photogenic, seeming not to mind having their photo taken. And who can blame them? The dragons are an extremely elegant looking lot, often perching themselves on seats, roofs and even the logs in the centre of the Talking Circle, head up high and proudly surveying all that they see.

Like any Hollywood star, the dragons each have distinguishing features, including (a staff favourite) one veteran dragon sporting a crooked tail. This one seems particularly adept at playing it cool, not reacting too much except to move his head this way and that during a photoshoot as if he’s working the camera.

Not all the dragons are as docile. The younger ones tend to scamper away, keeping more of a distance from humans – and lithely dodging when the older dragon gets too close!


It’s clear that water dragons communicate with each other in a number of ways, including waving their arms up and down to signal dominance or submission (Australian Museum 2021).

Less clear is whether State Library visitors or staff have ever successfully communicated by waving back. If you manage to converse with a dragon, we'd love to know what you talked about.

Nibbling, dating

The dragons have been known to approach humans confidently, especially ones holding food! One of our staff also shared a story about a dragon taking small nibbles of painted toenails, thinking that they were something to eat.

Unfortunately, this is not the only limitation of their object edibility detection, with reports of a dragon attempting to chomp on a sandwich still in a hard plastic package. This particular dragon had brought a girlfriend along to the picnic, so be warned – if there is a special someone with you on the Maiwar Green, you may be unwittingly going on a dragon double date.

Being flat out like a lizard drinking

It turns out that the old idiom was true – but not exactly as you’d expect. One of our staff shared a story about pouring water on the ground for the dragons on a hot day. Not to be confined by the old expression where a lizard is ‘flat out’ flicking its tongue to drink, the ingenious dragons actually tilt their heads to suck the water in the side of their mouths. Now that’s using the old noodle.


That’s right – our dragons are becoming highly evolved. It is said that Southbank water dragons are separated from other tribes around Brisbane by buildings, shopping malls and highways, and they are evolving differently to the rest of the dragon population in a Galapagos finch-type effect.

One expert stated that they are evolving so quickly towards being land-based creatures that in the future they may not even be ‘water dragons’ anymore (Jones 2018). Being able to adapt that swiftly to human activity is a pretty exceptional skill in my view.

Stealth and surprise, library infiltration

A sneaky bunch, the dragons are also masters in the art of surprise, stealthily skittering along the ground and leaping up onto chairs, tables, bags and legs, or even landing right atop the books of unsuspecting human readers. Not to be confined to the great outdoors, the dragons are not averse to making guest appearances inside the library, on occasion wandering into the Infozone.

Learn more with the State Library and National Geographic Kids

If you want to discover more about these fascinating creatures, or encourage your kids to show an interest in the natural world (complete with its assortment of reptiles), why not explore National Geographic Kids, a site that offers exciting adventures into the realms of nature, geography, science, culture and more. This great resource is available for free with your State Library membership.

There are video segments, an image library, fun and interesting facts graded for young audiences and a great feature to view a vast collection of cool, colourful posters from the National Geographic Kids Magazine collection. Additionally, by clicking on ‘Browse Magazines’ in the menu bar, you can even look through whole past issues of National Geographic Kids with the online viewer.

A search for 'water dragon' revealed two great viewable book resources, 'Real Dragons!' and 'Ultimate Reptile-opedia', the latter claiming to be 'the most complete reptile reference ever'. That's sure to be hours of fun for reptile fans.

National Geographic Kids is available to use free with your State Library membership. To access it, log in to OneSearch and search the catalogue for ‘National Geographic Kids’, then click on the link under ‘suggested database’.


  • Australian Museum 2021, ‘Australian Water Dragon’, Australian Museum website, 28 April 2021, viewed 4 November 2021, <>
  • Jones, A 2018, 'These water dragons are 'evolving at a pace we can witness' ABC News, 10 February 2018, viewed 4 November 2021, <>

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