Reviving the Sand Lizards: Marwell’s Remarkable Conservation Efforts

May 31, 2023

Exciting news this week, as our ecologist recorded the first signs of breeding among our reintroduced sand lizard population, reinforcing our efforts in conserving these very rare and special creatures.

As some will know well, Marwell is involved in restoring the natural balance of heathland species at Eelmoor Marsh SSSI, which we have been managing since 1995. In 2017, we embarked on a vital mission to reintroduce the sand lizard population, the UK’s rarest reptile. While widespread across Europe, these fascinating creatures have experienced alarming declines in the UK due to the loss of their preferred habitat—sandy heathland. Today, they are predominantly found in southern England. We have closely monitored the population at Eelmoor, to ensure their survival and successful breeding.

Sand lizards, as their name suggests, rely on sandy soil to lay their eggs. During springtime, the males undergo a remarkable transformation, turning bright green to attract potential mates. After mating, the females skilfully dig D-shaped holes in the sand, where they lay their precious eggs. Searching for these distinctive holes between May and June allows us to monitor their population and assess their breeding efforts.

Sand Lizard-Lacerta-agilis-Marwell Zoo-Rachel-Gardner

This week, a female sand lizard was spotted digging a hole and settling inside ready to lay! Witnessing this behaviour in action is a rare and extraordinary sight, as sand lizards are not commonly spotted in the wild. Not only is this a wonderful moment for anyone interested in wildlife, it is also a strong indication that our population is healthy and ready to thrive over the coming years.

Posted: 31 May 2023