Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) is disappointed in government’s statement on reintroduction of species in England, and asks that government reconsiders.Reintroductions are an important tool in the recovery of reptiles and amphibians, and government’s announcement creates confusion around future action.

In a statement issued on Friday 28 October, government stated that reintroduction is “not a priority”, with the clear focus for species recovery on habitat-based measures and reducing threats. This statement is a formal response to an inquiry on reintroductions in England which concluded in July 2023. The conclusions of that inquiry dismayed many working on species conservation, as it took a rather partial view of reintroductions, emphasising risks and not sufficiently recognising the benefits or wider public interest. Perhaps responding to disquiet over unregulated releases, about which landowners are understandably concerned, the inquiry appeared to take an excessively cautious view. ARC contributed to that inquiry with a series of observations and recommendations; regrettably though, the final inquiry report did not adequately cover our points and was met with broad disappointment in the nature conservation sector. In its formal response, government has now largely dismissed the specific recommendations from that inquiry, yet at the same time presented a similarly discouraging view about reintroductions.

Government says reintroduction is not a priority and moreover there is no strategy for this topic. This leaves those working on reintroduction projects in an uncertain world. It is unclear what Government’s statement means in practice. Whilst some elements of the statement are encouraging – such as the refusal to review legal protection for the beaver (whose reintroduction should help amphibians) – the tone and unspecific framing create confusion. The position also seems to be an about-turn from the stance adopted in recent years by government and its agencies, with some encouraging rhetoric and real steps forward: publication of a well-received reintroduction code, setting up a reintroduction Task Force, a large grant scheme, publication of case studies, putting a target for species recovery in law.

For some reptiles and amphibians, reintroduction plays an important role in recovery and ARC has a long history in delivering these projects with partners. Undertaking reintroductions to good practice is a long-term, resource-intensive endeavour, and it is important to have supportive government policies and procedures in place. Government now says that reintroduction is not a priority for it, but what about for others who look to government for advice? Can government realistically aim to leave nature in a better state whilst at the same time virtually abandoning a key tool? Will reintroduction programmes where government is a key player be curtailed?

We call on government to reconsider its position, and to clarify its role and how it works with partners on reintroductions in England. We also look to government agencies to reaffirm their support for sound reintroduction projects developed to good practice.

Banner image: Northern pool frog by Katie Garrett