Marwell and partners celebrate a quarter of a century of successful sand lizard reintroductions

May 15, 2017

A breeding colony of sand lizards Lacerta agilis first established at Marwell Zoo in 1989 has now led to the re-establishment of 26 populations of this rare reptile across the south of England.

Writing in the International Zoo Yearbook, a joint Marwell Wildlife, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust and Natural England team reported on the successful outcome of releasing captive bred lizards on heathland and coastal dune sites. Nearly 2,000 juvenile sand lizards were reintroduced to their indigenous habitats over the duration of the project, with a number of populations now persisting for over two decades since the founder animals were released. 

Despite occurring widely across Europe and Asia, the sand lizard is threatened in the north-western part of its range and had disappeared from much of its former habitat in England and Wales prior to concerted conservation efforts. Phil Riordan, Marwell Wildlife’s Head of Conservation Biology said, “Understanding the biological outcomes of conservation action is critical for determining success and learning from these experiences. The project has also helped us learn more about the biology of this enigmatic species which is important for planning future conservation efforts”. 

The authors of the publication highlight that coordinated collaborative actions and long-term institutional commitments were needed to bring about successful reintroduction of sand lizards. The conservation of the species in the UK will continue to rely on this support to ensure habitats are maintained in favourable condition and that populations of sand lizards remain protected.