The latest herpetological research shows that snake populations could be following amphibians and lizards down a path to global declines. Further research is urgently needed to understand what is happening.

An important factor in the UK could be increasing isolation of populations through development and habitat loss, leading to genetic impoverishment.

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) and Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK (ARG UK) are asking people to send in reptile sloughs (shed skins) that they find in the UK. These sloughs will be used to build up a ‘Reptile Genebank’ - a resource that can be used for long term studies into the effects of population isolation. DNA can be extracted from the sloughs, revealing much about the population in which the owner lives.

How to help:

Do not disturb, handle or physically remove the slough from any reptile. If you find a snake or lizard (including slow-worm) slough anywhere in the UK, please follow these guidelines: 

  • Please keep each individual slough separate, even if it is from the same site or refuge. Any contamination will compromise or invalidate the value of the slough. 
  • Collect as much of the skin as possible, but it does not need to be entire to be useful 
  • Record the grid reference (Minimum four figure, i.e. XX 12 34) and/or postcode 
  • If the slough is wet/damp please dry it out as best as you can, but avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight as this can destroy the DNA. 
  • Before placing each slough in a separate, dry paper envelope and sealing it, write on it: -
    • which species you think it is -
    • the location you found the slough -
    • the date you found it -
    • your name and contact details (especially email) 
  • Place this envelope (or envelopes) in another envelope and post to: Reptile Slough Genebank, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, 744 Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH7 6BZ Please send sloughs throughout the season as it is easier to process donations into the genebank.