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Monday, 6 March, 2000, 16:27 GMT
Lizard throws Queen off course
Canberra skyline
Queen Elizabeth won't be flying direct to Canberra
Queen Elizabeth II is having to change her plans for her arrival in the Australian capital Canberra because of a rare lizard which has never even been sighted in the area.

The earless dragon, which measures up to 21cm (eight inches) in length, has disrupted the Queen's visit more effectively than Australia's Republicans, who campaigned unsuccessfully for her removal as head of state in last November's constitutional referendum.

We're pretty disappointed. We would have loved to have seen the Queen land here.

Stephen Byron, Canberra airport manager
The earless dragon is believed to live in the area around Canberra airport, where the Queen was due to land at the start of her visit later this month.

Plans to expand the runway to accommodate larger aircraft have been delayed by environmental questions about the creature's habitat.

Capital Airport Group, which runs the airport, wants to extend the runway's shoulders by 7.5 metres (25 ft) on each side and expand the turning apron so that widebodied international aircraft can land.

But because the earless dragon is believed to live in the vicinity - even though it is yet to be sighted - means the group is required to lodge a 90-day environmental application to make the changes.

Too late

With the Queen due to touch down on 17 March to begin her two-week visit to Australia, it is now too late to complete the application.

Republican poster
The earless dragon has proved more disruptive than last year's republican campaign
"We're pretty disappointed. We would have loved to have seen the Queen land here," said Stephen Byron, managing director of Capital Airport Group.

The earless dragon is a native of Australia's southern highlands region, southwest of Sydney, and is believed to inhabit about eight different locations in Canberra.

The Queen will now fly from London to Sydney where she will board one of the government's Falcon jets to fly to the capital.

US President Bill Clinton was allowed to land his 747 in Canberra during his 1996 tour of Australia because his plane, Air Force One, is a military aircraft.

But the Queen's civilian 747 requires a wider runway with a 45-metre (150 feet) turning circle at the end.

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02 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Queen or country?
06 Nov 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia rejects republic
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