Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Good news in the fight against chytridiomycosis

A team of scientists from Cornell University, US, has taken a huge leap towards understanding why the fungal disease chytridiomycosis (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has such devastating and fatal effects on some amphibian populations while others fight off the infection, remaining healthy.

The group have identified genetic factors that seem to make some individual frogs immune. These individuals have a genetic difference that can be traced back to regions of DNA that form part of the immune system called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). This helps the body’s immune system identify foreign bodies (such as fungi or bacteria).

These findings could influence captive breeding programs around the world. The idea would be to screen amphibians' MHC genes before breeding, to increase the odds of producing Bd-resistant tadpoles, which in turn would produce a more resilient population.

Of course this is fantastic news for our vulnerable amphibians, but does not take away from the fact that much work is still needed to combat their greatest threat, habitat destruction. This is why organisations like ARC will continue with conservation projects across the UK and abroad.

See an article written by the BBC News for more details on this story >>>
Visit our website for more general information on amphibian disease >>>

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The National Planning Policy Framework - is it all bad news for reptiles and amphibians?

‘Yes’ I hear many of you cry – and in essence that is the problem with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Government’s new planning proposals for England. The headline messages are simply not strong enough in favour of conserving the natural environment and, partly as a consequence of this, the document reads like a developers’ charter. Emphasising as it does the need for a strong ‘pro-economic growth’ agenda’, the current wording threatens to jeopardise large areas of our countryside and many of the ‘brownfield’ sites (derelict/ former industrial land) that are so important for reptiles and amphibians.

There are, however, some principles within the NPPF that we at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), and others in Wildlife & Countryside Link, the NGO forum through which we do much of our campaigning work on Planning legislation and policy, do subscribe to. We support Sustainable Development (with the emphasis on Sustainable!), we see a benefit in a more proportionate and locally accountable planning system and we see value in a ‘plan led’ approach that can define conservation as well as socio-economic objectives for an area. The 58 page document is meant to be read and considered in its entirety – for those with the stamina to reach clause 163 there is a section on the Natural Environment and scattered through it are little nuggets that could give us hope, had we not been distracted by the less positive messages elsewhere.

ARC, through W&C Link, is actively campaigning to address some key over-riding issues, and in particular:

  • the need for a clear and workable definition of sustainable development;
  • that there should only be a presumption in favour of development that clearly accords with an appropriate definition of the term ‘sustainable development’; and
  • clear links must be made between the NPPF and the Natural Environment White Paper.

The Prime Minister has recently made a personal intervention and has emphasised his commitment to safeguarding our countryside – but we also wish to see wildlife conserved throughout England and not just in our designated National Parks. For truly sustainable development to happen as a result of the NPPF, the whole document must reflect the fact that our long term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, also paying due regard to social needs. Without this basis, the presumption for ‘sustainable development’ will simply be a licence for ‘sustained development’. The NPPF, as written, has rightly angered many environmental and local organisations and has sustained a barrage of criticism in the press. Let us hope that the Government is listening and takes this opportunity to create a planning system that delivers truly sustainable development - a thriving economy alongside flourishing wildlife. ARC will continue to campaign to try to make this happen.

The opportunity for Public comments continues until 17th October (see we would encourage you to have your say).

Tony Gent


Annual ARC-BHS Scientific Meeting - December 2011

The programme for the ever popular joint scientific meeting of Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and the British Herpetological Society has now been finalised!

The meeting will take place on Sunday 4th December, from 9:30am to 5:00pm and will be held at the Bournemouth Natural History Society.

For more details and to register for the meeting please download the flyer here

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Rare Sand Lizards Released Back to the Wild in England & Wales

During this week conservationists will be giving the UK's rarest lizard a helping hand, c.500 captive bred sand lizards will be released at 7 sites in England and Wales as part of a long-term conservation project to restore the species status and historic range.

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC), the Countryside Council for Wales and Natural England have teamed up to safeguard the future of these magnificent lizards. The lizards will be released at specially prepared nature reserves in Merseyside, west Wales, Surrey, Sussex and Dorset.

In the UK sand lizards only live on two rare habitats; sand-dune and lowland dry heath. Due to vast historic losses, and fragmentation of these habitats via development and land use change, the species has been lost from north and west Wales, Cheshire, Kent, Sussex, Berkshire, Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall. Native populations now only remain in Merseyside, Surrey, and Dorset -though even here losses of 97%, 95% and 90% have occurred respectively.

Due to these losses the sand lizard is now part of the UK's Biodiversity Action Plan. This has three main aims - protect the sites as nature reserves where the species occurs, to manage these sites to maintain and restore suitable conditions for sand lizards and, to re-introduce sand lizards to managed sites in their former historic range.

Currently there are ten captive breeding centres for sand lizards including Chester Zoo and Marwell Wildlife, New Forest Reptile Centre and Avon Heath Country Park These centres have outdoor enclosures that mimic the sand lizard's natural environment. From here, the captive bred juveniles are released on the re-introduction site in early September to allow the animals to gradually get used to the re-introduction site before hibernation in October.

Jonathan Webster, ARC Chair of Trustees said "We are delighted with the success of the sand lizard re-introduction programme. So far the partnerships have instigated 74 re-introductions to both dune and heathland sites in 12 vice-counties and restored the species to 7 of these. 80% of these have been successful or going well and more are planned for the future."

We have high hopes for this year's re-introductions as these large sites are well managed by our partners; Countryside Council for Wales, MoD, National Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Bournemouth Borough Council, Waverley Borough Council. Ongoing surveys by trained site staff, volunteers and Amphibian & Reptile Groups of the UK will let us know how the species is doing in the long term, and when they start to colonise new areas.

If people want to find out more about our native amphibians and reptiles or can help with surveying and monitoring please contact us at the address' provided below.

Male Sand Lizards (ARC)

Released Juvenile Sand Lizards (ARC)

For further information contact:

Nick Moulton / Chris Davis, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, 01202 391319, or

Jim Foster, Natural England, 0300 060 1163,

Liz Howe, Countryside Council for Wales, 01248 387257,

CLARE Project at The Mayor’s Thames Festival 2011

The Mayor’s Thames Festival is a huge free, outdoor arts festival that takes place along the banks of the River Thames each September. This multicultural event combines arts, music, dance, river races, carnival and foods of the world to celebrate the River Thames and London’s diverse communities and cultures.

ARC’s CLARE Project will be taking part in this fantastic event and will be situated in The Blue Ribbon Village. The village will be located on and around Potters Fields Park, by City Hall and on the riverside walkway. This area forms the Festival's environmental zone and features activities such as pond-dipping workshops, bee-keeping, colourful flags by artist Shona Watt, music from around the world, art workshops and storytelling, a bar and food stalls and much more!

Sophie our CLARE Project Officer will be on hand with information about our native amphibians and reptiles, animals on display and the chance to record local sightings and get involved in this exciting new project. So come along and meet some of the cities scaliest Londoners!

For more information about the CLARE Project and other upcoming events click here

For more information about the Mayor’s Thames Festival click here