Thursday, 22 April 2010

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation to the Rescue as Studland is hit by fires again

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation are sorry to report that in the last couple of weeks there have been two heath fires on National Trust Land on Godlingston Heath NNR, Studland devastating over 40 acres of land. Nick Moulton, ARC’s Reptile Conversation Officer, has been out most days working with National Trust staff to rescue the animals that are left.

Over 90% of the native animals will have died in the fire. If the rest are not rescued the likelihood of survival decreases. Nick and the trained wardens at the National Trust have been picking up animals from the burnt heath and relocating them to the next suitable habitat. This habitat has had additional ‘artificial burrows’ and open sand managed (essential for sand lizard egg incubation) to improve the chance of the rescued animals survival in the new habitat. This will allow quicker repopulation of the burnt area when it recovers.

This time of year is critical for reptiles as they emerge from hibernation. Those that have survived will stay near to their burrows and eventually die if not relocated. The work will continue well into June as the smooth snake is much slower coming out of hibernation. When they do, they will come out to a dry landscape and will be easy pickings for foxes, kestrels, magpies and crows.

So far c50 sand lizards, 70 common lizards, 4 slow-worms, 1 adder and 1 smooth snake have been relocated.

Nick Moulton said; ‘the National Trust wardens and the fire brigade did a superb job. Their quick response and the ‘mown fire breaks’ not only provided the fire brigade with good access, but also stopped the fire from jumping from one site to another. Without the wardens excellent work it could have been 600 hectares!’

The police are investigating. One fire was definitely arson and the second is suspected arson.

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