Lacerta agilis

Where to find them

Due to vast habitat loss the species now only occurs naturally on protected heathland sites in Surrey, Dorset, Hampshire and the protect
ed Merseyside dunes systems. As the sand lizard requires both mature sunny habitats and open undisturbed sand, to lay their eggs, they can have quite limited distribution even within the protected sites.

Thanks to the reintroduction programme led by ARC, sand lizards have now been re-established at many other sites in these counties and also, to restore its historic range, to protected dune sites in north and west Wales, Kent, west Sussex, Devon and Cornwall.

Identification

The sand lizard is a stocky lizard, reaching up to 20cm in length. Both sexes have brown varied patterns down the back with two strong dorsal stripes. The male has extremely striking green flanks which are particularly bright during the breeding season in late April and May.

Lifecycle

Animals emerge from hibernation from late March to April. The sand lizard lays eggs in late May or early June. The eggs are left buried in sand exposed to the sun which helps to keep them warm. Eggs hatch between late August and September. The sand lizard is dependent on well managed heathland or sand dune habitats, where it occupies mature vegetation that provides good cover.

Protection

Due to its rarity, the sand lizard is strictly protected by British and European law which makes it an offence to kill, injure, capture or disturb them; damage or destroy their habitat; or to possess or trade in them. A licence is required for some activities involving this species.

ARC’s sand lizard conservation work

Since its inception, ARC has taken the lead in sand lizard conservation in Britain, expanding on the excellent work done by volunteers in the British Herpetological Society Conservation Committee. Our sand lizard work focuses on five main areas. Firstly, we acquire and manage land of value to the species. Many of our nature reserves were established because of their significant sand lizard populations and value to our other native reptiles. Our work on these sites includes habitat restoration, to extend the amount of land suitable for sand lizards, often by removing dense scrub and tree cover. We also maintain and enhance these sites through carefully targeted improvements, including providing open sand for egg-laying, removing shade from important basking areas, and managing invasive plant species. Secondly, we monitor the status of sand lizards, through in house surveys and working with partners. We undertake field surveys of the lizards themselves and assess the condition of their habitat. Thirdly, we run a reintroduction programme, bringing sand lizards back to carefully restored areas using captive bred hatchlings. The lizards are bred by a network of private individuals and zoos, and the resulting reintroductions mean that we have made excellent progress in re-establishing the range of this species. Fourthly, we undertake advocacy work to encourage policies and practice that is beneficial to sand lizards. For example, we have worked with Natural England to review the contribution of the protected site (SSSI) series to sand lizard conservation, and made recommendations for improvement. Lastly, through our regional projects we take actions to help sand lizards, for example in the Gems in the Dunes project on the Sefton Coast. Sand lizards also feature in our scientific and communications activity, helping to develop evidence about what works best to conserve the species, and encouraging others to take action, for example through habitat management advice.

Our work on sand lizards has been supported by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales. Much of this work is done in partnership with organisations such as ARG UK, the RSPB, Forestry Commission, Defence Infrastructure Organisation, the Zoological Society of London, Chester Zoo, Marwell Wildlife, independent herpetologists, and numerous land owners.

Photo Gallery

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Sand Lizard Expert Day: Join us for a sand lizard Expert Day on the stunning Sefton Coast, the largest undeveloped dune system in England!