Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Gardeners urged to look out for little dragons…

Launching at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, a new campaign called ‘Dragons in your Garden’ will encourage gardeners to take simple steps to help out the UK’s frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards – many of which are disappearing from the wider countryside.

By providing free advice to gardeners about adding ponds, compost heaps, rockeries and bog gardens, conservationists from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation hope to see populations of ‘little dragons’ like smooth newts, slow-worms (a legless lizard), and even grass snakes, flourish in urban areas where they may be scarce currently.

The campaign launches with a ‘Dragon’s Garden’ exhibit at Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

The Dragon’s Garden showgarden includes a pond with plants suitable for egg-laying by newts, frogs and toads as well as ‘nursery areas’ for developing tadpoles. The structure and planting of the Dragon’s Garden also mimics that of reptiles' natural habitat, providing open areas for basking alongside hiding places and foraging sites.

The Dragon’s Garden also features a reptile-friendly compost heap: rotting compost is a natural source of warmth for grass snakes and their developing eggs, and a place for slow-worms to give birth.

The showgarden was awarded Bronze by the Royal Horticultural Society judges yesterday.

“Populations of amphibians and reptiles in the UK have declined and are still declining. A little help from gardeners can make a real difference to the conservation of these enigmatic species.” said Dr. John Wilkinson of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

Of the UK’s thirteen species of amphibians and reptiles, ten species are listed on the Government’s Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) priority ‘watchlist’.

The Hampton Court Palace Flower Show signifies the first public event of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation – the new charity formed from the merger of Froglife and The Herpetological Conservation Trust.

The Dragon’s Garden was researched and designed by the National Diploma in Horticulture students from Kingston Maurward College, Dorset. The wider campaign is supported by a number of organisations including Scottish Natural Heritage, Herpetosure, Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK) and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

For a free copy of the advice booklet ‘Dragons in your Garden’ please visit www.arc-trust.org/dragons or call Amphibian and Reptile Conservation on 01733 558960.

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