A major effort is underway to boost numbers of the UK’s rarest lizard after a huge forest fire in Dorset this summer devastated one of the country’s remaining sand lizard habitats.
ARC has been working with Marwell Wildlife and Forestry England in Dorset to release more than 200 young sand lizards back into the wild at Puddletown Forest following an exceptional breeding year at the zoo.
Dorset is a stronghold for this protected species but a recent wildfire at Wareham Forest, which burned for more than two weeks, destroyed over 220 hectares of vital wildlife habitat. A team of volunteers were able to rescue and relocate some reptiles in the days after the fire but hundreds of sand lizards were impacted. The fire, which was thought to be caused by a disposable barbecue or camp fire, burned for more than two weeks and took four million litres of water to extinguish.
Marwell Wildlife, dedicated to the conservation of species and habitats locally and globally, has been home to a captive breeding population of sand lizards at Marwell Zoo for over thirty years, supporting efforts to reintroduce this species to restored former strongholds. Working in partnership with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation and with support from Natural England, Marwell Wildlife has contributed more than 2000 young lizards to 22 release sites across Southern England, continuing this year at Puddletown Forest. Last year the charity refreshed and increased the size of its captive breeding facility, to increase capacity for young lizards and expand research opportunities in order understand more about this rare reptile and safeguard its fragile populations.