Wednesday, 9 September 2009

School children meet the Welsh Dragon

After last week’s successful releases in Surrey, sand lizards are today being released at a National Nature Reserve in Wales, managed by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW).

Due to extensive loss of heathland and sand dune habitats on which they depend, sand lizards were lost entirely north and west Wales during the last century. Coordinated releases, over a number of years, are now seeing them return to Ynyslas nature reserve.

“The project has been a resounding success over the past fifteen years or so,” said CCW’s Dr Liz Howe. “We’ve seen numbers increase strongly on all the release sites, because the lizards are now breeding naturally. We also know that they are extending their range as they move further from the reintroduction areas.”

“But it is important that we continue to introduce young lizards to suitable new sites for some years to come – so that a population with a good range of ages and genetic variation is established.”

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation’s Chris Davis, -who, along with Paul Hudson, reared the lizards from eggs- was on hand at the release site:

“Every year we undertake these lizard releases I have an immense sense of pride, satisfaction and joy, but with a tear in the eye…” he said.

Yesterday local school children were introduced to the lizards and learnt more about their important sand dune habitats, with lizard experts and Mike Bailey, CCW's Head Warden, along with other CCW site staff.

“They proved an attentive and appreciative audience with many interesting questions,” commented Mr Davis.

The sand lizard Lacerta agilis is the UK’s largest and rarest lizard. The three inch long baby sand lizards released today have been reared in special hatcheries, prepared by zoos (including Chester Zoo and Marwell Wildlife) and experts from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.

The coordinated action forms part of a major ‘rescue operation’ to save the UK’s threatened reptiles and amphibians - frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards.

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