Surprisingly, there is very little information about the distribution of amphibians and reptiles in London and this is hampering opportunities to conserve them. There are significant areas in Greater London for which there is very little or virtually no data on amphibians and reptiles.

London has a superb diversity of wildlife. Nine of the thirteen British native herpetofauna species occur naturally in the Capital, these are; common frog, common toad, great crested newt, smooth newt, palmate newt, slow-worm, common lizard, grass snake and adder.

There are also other species, some of which are not naturally found in Britain thriving in small pockets of land in London.

For the Connecting London’s Amphibian & Reptile Enviroments (CLARE) project ARC teamed up withLondon Wildlife Trust, Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL - the Capital's Environmental Records Centre) and London Amphibian and Reptile Group (LARG) with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project ran between June 2011 and July 2012 and campaigned for a wider public participation and education in wildlife recording and a raised profile and understanding of amphibians and reptiles and their distribution within Greater London. It took shape around two of London Wildlife Trust’s living landscape areas: ‘From Thorn to Orchid’ chalk grassland sites in Bromley and Croydon (south London) and ‘Crane Valley’ alongside river habitat in Hillingdon and Hounslow (west London) covering over 15 reserves. The first part of the project revolved around generating interest in herps with the locals in these areas, taking down their sightings and setting up monitoring schemes for these areas. The winter focussed on more workdays carrying out habitat management on known herp sites all around London.

The aims of the project were:

  • to find out more about where London's amphibians and reptiles can be found
  • to provide information that will help look after them into the future.
  • to ask people to look for these animals and to tell us where they have seen them
  • to provide an opportunity for people to see what they look like and to find out how best to look for them in the wild through a series of events
  • to produce an atlas of distribution based on records and on predictive mapping/ modelling
  • to provide specific training and advice to help staff and volunteers of London Wildlife Trust (LWT), London Amphibian & Reptile Group and others, to promote amphibian and reptile conservation, especially on LWT Reserves and through LWT landscape projects

Project Successes

  • Over 50 LWT staff and volunteers trained in habitat management and in return they have provided ARC with the sites to monitor to establish long term goals for the conservation of amphibians and reptiles - which will be reflected in future LWT management plans.
  • Attended 5 major events including the Thames Festival, Wildlife Expo, and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration of ‘Wild London’ at Richmond Park – reaching tens of thousands of people over the life of the project.
  • Held 19 events and information days aimed at raising the profile of amphibians and reptiles including reptile rambles, workshops and talks and presentations to organisations and members of the public.
  • Given out 4-5,000 copies of our leaflet ‘Scaling the City’ with an identification guide and a detachable species sighting form culminating in more than1,100 new records.
  • Produced London’s first publicly accessible amphibian and reptile atlas.
  • Held 4 training sessions on both habitat management for herps and survey techniques, with over 45 people being trained and leading to attendees holding their own follow-on survey and ID course for local groups of volunteers.
  • Recruited 72 enthusiastic volunteers who helped with survey, management and events

To commemorate the end of this successful partnership project we have produced an atlas on the distribution of London's amphibians and reptiles. London's first publicly accessible amphibian and reptile atlas was launched on Friday 20th July 2012 and is hosted by GiGL on their website. Working with GiGL on the project has provided an easy to use online recording system for the public and helped encourage wildlife recording in London. A major thrust of the project has been the training element, both in habitat management and in survey, to ensure that the conservation needs of species can be built in to future plans. The Atlas shows not only records of each species but also indicates suitable habitats where they may be found. You can still submit your amphibian and reptile sightings to be included in the Atlas via the GiGL website

The CLARE project has established a good starting point for a more focused and continued effort for survey and monitoring in London and we hope that the Atlas will inspire more people to get involved to help us assess the status of London’s amphibian and reptile populations. If you are interested in surveying please get in touch with London Amphibian and Reptile Group by email at londonarg@hotmail.co.uk or via their website.

It has been a great project, working in partnership with London Wildlife Trust (LWT), GiGL (Greenspace information for Greater London) and the London Amphibian and Reptile Group and has exceeded its original ambitions. The Project Officer, Sophie Hinton, was enthusiastic and dedicated to the project and she will be greatly missed from the ARC staff.

Download a PDF version of the first London's Amphibian and Reptile Atlas from the GiGL website!

Paper copies of the atlas are available from ARC, London Wildlife Trust or GiGL.