Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has apologised for failing to produce "a dragon or dragon eggs" after a 7-year-old girl wrote asking for one for Christmas.

In the letter, addressed "Hello lovely scientist", Sophie Lester from Queensland wrote: "Would it be possible if you can make a dragon for me? I would like it if you could, but if you can't that's fine". Sophie, who had begged her parents for a baby dragon as a present, promised to call it Toothless if it were a girl and Stuart if it were a boy. Sophie promised to keep the dragon "in my special green grass area where there is lots of space, feed it raw fish and put a collar on it. I would play with it every weekend when there is no school".

In a response posted on its website, CSIRO said it was proud of its work since 1926 but regretted that it had yet to create or observe a fire-breathing dragon. "Over the past 87-odd years we have not been able to create a dragon or dragon eggs. We have sighted an eastern bearded dragon at one of our telescopes, observed dragonflies and even measured body temperatures of the mallee dragon. But our work has never ventured into dragons of the mythical, fire-breathing variety. And for this, Australia, we are sorry."

Sophie's mother, Melissah Lester, said her daughter was overjoyed with the response. "All her friends are now saying they want to be a scientist and Sophie says she now wants to work in the CSIRO."