Recently ARC’s reptile conservation officer, Nick Moulton, visited the New Forest Reptile Centre to assist with a health checkup for the centre’s resident sand lizards. The lizards are part of the sand lizard reintroduction programme and require checkups to enable them to be released into the wild. 

The New Forest Reptile Centre is a much loved landmark. Situated just outside of Lyndhurst village, the centre offers a unique day out. Pods enable visitors to get a close up view of native amphibians and reptiles in their natural habitat, discover the ecology of forest native wildlife. Dating back to the 70’s the centre now attracts up to 1.5 million visitors a year and is due to open throughout the school summer holidays. 

The sand lizard vivarium at the Reptile Centre is as natural as possible, catering only for this single species. There is low intervention and disturbance from feeding and habitat management and it is designed to mimic natural conditions. The pod also has quarantine barriers, which minimises the spread of pathogens and disease. With Natural England and the Institute of Zoology (Zoological Society London), ARC undertakes a program of health checks alongside Forestry England to ensure that only healthy animals are released to wild sites. 

Animals are caught from the vivarium with best practice measures: by hand or nylon noose, by a licensed individual to reduce damage or stress. The lizards are then kept in disinfected containers that are dark and contain vegetation for cover, before undergoing health examination by professional ZSL vets. Health checks assess body condition, weight, length, and heart rate. In order to check for disease, a buccal (mouth) swab is taken, and any faeces is also tested. 

As we have done prior research on reintroduction sites to determine which pathogens this species might encounter in the wild, the health checks can then compare the data gained to generate potential threat levels and flag pathogens as a risk. We have never encountered a major risk of pathogens from the vivarium at the Reptile Centre, though we must be vigilant. Diseases in the wild are generally increasing and becoming more of a conservation concern. If a pathogen is encountered, the lizards are retained, treated, then re-assessed until they recover and then can be released. 

It will be a year before we receive the full report of the findings from this year’s check-ups, so for now the lizards have been safely returned to their pods in the centre, where you can spot them basking in the sun from July to September! 



For more information on ARC’s involvement on sand lizard reintroductions, best practice measures and scientific references, please visit this page: