Marwell Wildlife shortlisted for prestigious award

October 11, 2023

Sand Lizard Release 4

Marwell Wildlife has been shortlisted for the Great British Wildlife Restoration competition, a new one-off award scheme that recognises the incredible work being done to restore native species in the country.

Keep reading to learn how you can show your support for this project.

Marwell is proud to be recognised for its Reintroduction of the UK’s rarest lizards to Southern England. The project began 30 years ago and has released over 2000 lizards to 28 heathland and coastal dune sites across Southern England. Sand lizards are brilliantly camouflaged and extremely difficult to find after they have been released into the wild, so Marwell developed a pioneering study that fitted tiny radio-tracking backpacks to reintroduced lizards at Eelmoor Marsh SSSI to evaluate post-release monitoring techniques. The tiny backpacks were shed after a couple of weeks and we have been able to keep track of the lizards since then with more traditional monitoring methods. The lizards are adapting well to life in the wild and in May 2023 we found evidence that they were breeding.

Sand lizard reintroduction

This collaborative multi-partner initiative to reverse the sand lizards decline in the UK through providing expertise and animals for release is enhanced by an extensive research programme on species biology and reintroduction techniques. The programme has led to two PhDs, four research masters, and several undergraduate projects.

Our sand lizard conservation projects have been delivered in partnership with Natural England, the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust, & Forestry England. Eelmoor Marsh SSSI is owned by QinetiQ.

The Great British Wildlife Restoration, inspired by Sir David Attenborough’s Wild Isles BBC TV series, has been organised by BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums). It will shine a spotlight on some of the amazing work taking place to tackle the drastic decline of our native species and will urge politicians to act now for our nature.

Marwell joins 22 other shortlisted projects. Collectively these projects have helped thousands of animals, habitats and ecosystems, as well as inspiring thousands of people with their stories. Species being helped include red squirrels, oysters and glow worms!

Dr Jo Judge, CEO of BIAZA, said; “We have an extraordinary shortlist of projects. They demonstrate that zoos and aquariums are not just saving exotic species, but supporting wildlife on our doorstep.

We have to treasure the nature we have and help it thrive. It should be widely known that BIAZA zoos and aquariums are doing just that. It’s a source of hope and something we can all be proud of.”

A new report shows British wildlife is in decline and needs serious help. The State of Nature report showed 1,500 native species are at risk of being lost and 1 in 6 species are at risk of extinction. 

Sand Lizard Release 6
during the EFL Cup match between Stevenage and Portsmouth at the Lamex Stadium, Stevenage, England on 29 August 2020.

Quote from Carla Broom, Marwell Wildlife Ecologist: “These fascinating creatures have experienced alarming declines in the UK due to the loss of their preferred habitat—sandy heathland. In May this year, I observed a female sand lizard digging a hole and settling inside ready to lay eggs! 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“.

Quote from Professor Philip Riordan, Director of Conservation: “Marwell has an established track-record of initiating, supporting, and managing long-term collaborative multi-partner conservation projects that result in meaningful, real-world change. Our evidence-based approach to conservation improves the status of threatened species and their habitats. Our 30 year sand lizard reintroduction programme is a great example, shown through our dedicated ex situ management, habitat restoration, reintroduction, and research efforts that have led to the re-establishment of sand lizard populations in southern England. Our associated research programme has helped train the next generation of conservation biologists ensuring resilience for UK conservation work.”

As a shortlisted project Marwell will be invited to a prestigious awards evening at the House of the Speaker of the House of Commons in January. The winner will have received the most votes from supportive Members of Parliament or Members of the House of Lords.

Only MPs and members of the House of Lords can vote but supporters of Marwell can get involved by writing to politicians asking them to vote for our Reintroduction of Sand Lizards to Southern England project. 

You can find the email address for your local MPs and Lords here.

Download our email template to copy and paste.