The sand lizard Lacerta agilis is one of Britain’s rarest reptiles having disappeared from much of its range because of habitat loss and fragmentation. The species occurs on a limited number of heathlands in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, and coastal dune systems in north and west Wales, Merseyside, Kent, West Sussex, Devon and Cornwall. Even within these sites, availability of suitable habitat can be limited because of the species’ need for sunny locations with a combination of good vegetation structure and open sand.
For over 20 years we have bred and released sand lizards to help re-establish populations across the South of England and contributed to the knowledge of the species’ biology. Much of our own work has focused on the reintroduction of the sand lizard to Eelmoor Marsh Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). While the species has persisted following releases, we were concerned to improve our ability to monitor this elusive species and ensure that the population was growing according to expectations. To achieve this, we collaborated with our long-term partners at University of Southampton to undertake a detailed PhD study by one of our team. This ground-breaking work at Eelmoor Marsh has now been completed and we will be publishing results during 2021.
We anticipate updating release and monitoring protocols for sand lizards and other cryptic species following this work.