Today [Monday 23 April] 21 captive bred juvenile sand lizards were released at the RSPB’s Farnham Heath nature reserve as part of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC)’s long-term conservation project for this fascinating but endangered species.

Due to widespread habitat losses across the UK, sand lizards now only occur naturally in Surrey and Dorset on sandy heathland, and further north in Merseyside where it is confined to coastal sand dune systems.

ARC is working in partnership with the RSPB to restore the UK's rarest lizard to this part of its historic range.

‘Whilst the RSPB’s focus on Farnham Heath is obviously on rare ground nesting birds like woodlark and nightjar, this is a wonderful example of how good habitat management and cooperation between wildlife conservation organisations can benefit a whole range of species. ARC sites can support key bird populations and RSPB sites can be great places for reptiles, we can’t afford to manage our sites in isolation,’ says Ralph Connolly, Field Officer and Volunteer Coordinator for ARC.

Sand lizards are believed to have been lost from the Farnham Heath site when the land was planted up with a commercial conifer crop after the Second World War.

ARC, under licence from Natural England, maintain a captive breeding population of animals, originally drawn from sites in Surrey, to provide a source of young lizards that can be re-introduced to areas where suitable habitat has been created.

This is the first in a three year programme of releases, to establish a population nucleus from which the animals will be able to spread naturally over the site. Further releases of juvenile lizards are planned for successive years.

Ralph Connolly said, “Habitat fragmentation - in the form of intervening roads or development can be a real barrier for wildlife so reintroductions are a great way of putting native species back on suitable sites that they would be unable to reach on their own.”

Sand Lizard hibernate over winter but are active now and the males will soon be displaying their vivid green breeding colours. “If you are lucky you may see them basking on south-facing heather banks. Please note however that these animals are protected by law and it is an offence to disturb them in the wild.” adds Ralph Connolly.

ARC manages a range of wildlife sites across the Surrey / Hampshire Weald and this is supported by a group of dedicated and friendly volunteers. Anyone interested in volunteering opportunities can contact Ralph Connolly via [email protected] or 07387 261217

Photo credit: Mary Braddock, RSPB


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For more on how we help threatened reptiles and amphibians, see our Saving Species pages.