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,

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