Gary Powell, ARC’s Senior Reserves Manager explains how ARC and Naturetrek have teamed up to showcase amphibians and reptiles in the UK and beyond

ARC and Naturetrek have for some time been looking at ways in which we could collaborate. Naturetrek, established worldwide wildlife tour organisers, have been looking to increase their reptile and amphibian activities. The pandemic and associated restrictions forced us all into a different way of working and Naturetrek needed to look closer to home to provide the wildlife experiences their clients were after; which is where we came in. With experienced field herpetologists and a suite of our own nature reserves, we were able to offer tours closer to home which became viable once lockdown restriction started to lift.

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)
© Tom Mabbett

Our first two trips, first in April and then in June of this year, have been resounding successes. I have been amazed at the levels of enthusiasm and general wildlife knowledge from Naturetrek customers and have thoroughly enjoyed bringing them further into the world of UK amphibians and reptiles, and engaging them in the (not always easy!) mission to find as many of our UK species as we could; indeed the ‘challenge’ aspect of finding our secretive species in the wild with our somewhat unpredictable weather seemed to be something that everyone enjoyed and participated in. If it was too easy it would be no fun at all!

 During both busy three day tours we visited a number of nature reserves around Purbeck and the Bournemouth area helped at various times by a range of different members of the ARC team and staff from partner organisations, all of whom assisted with field work (day and night!) and could further explain the role of ARC in UK conservation and enthuse about the range of wildlife we see on our sites.  ARC reserves are also home to many other rare and exciting species so even if reptiles are driven under cover by weather conditions there is always plenty to see and discuss.

 The benefits of these sorts of tours are the added social time you get during meals and breaks which allows you to get to know everyone and it was very rewarding to see a team spirit quickly develop, and although there are some long days, challenging weather and a fair few miles walked overall it was all great fun.

Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus thracius)
© Bobby Bok

ARCs mission is primarily to conserve our native herpetofauna but we are always open to new ideas and approaches and keen to increase and broaden the expertise and knowledge we have within the organisation. I am delighted to have been asked by Naturetrek to co-lead a reptile and amphibian tour to the Peloponnese region of Greece next April. I have done similar work in other parts of the world and relish the opportunity to do so again in one of Europe’s key herping hotspots.

We then aim to build on this partnership and increase the benefits to both organisations; ARC can raise our profile with a different audience and attract wider support while bringing in different members of staff to gain experience and add diversity and development to job roles. Exciting times ahead!

Banner image: Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita) © Tom Mabbett