We’ve released Britain’s rarest lizard back into the wild

November 22, 2017

As part of efforts to restore Britain’s biodiversity, our conservation team have released 80 juvenile sand lizards onto Eelmoor Marsh.

Marwell Zoo Releases Britain’s Rarest Lizard Back into the Wild

As part of efforts to restore Britain’s biodiversity, Marwell Wildlife has released 80 juvenile sand lizards onto Eelmoor Marsh Site of Special Scientific Interest, near Farnborough.

This is the first stage in a three-year release plan, which will see the Hampshire conservation charity restore the animals to their natural habitat and historic range, as part of the sand lizard reintroduction strategy. 

The lizard population will be closely monitored after their release by Marwell Wildlife and University of Southampton PhD student, Rachel Gardner, who is working hard to continually assess the existing reptile community on site and the habitat suitability.  Rachel hopes the exercise will not only offer the opportunity to return the species to its indigenous range but also help answer some key questions surrounding its dispersal, use of microhabitats and survivorship: “As part of the close monitoring of the lizards after the release we hope to radio tag a portion of the population next year, in order to follow individuals more closely. In total we intend for 240 individuals to be released during this reintroduction programme to establish a self-sustaining population at the site indefinitely.”

Despite occurring widely across Europe and Asia, the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) 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.

Marwell Conservation Biologist Dr Martin Wilkie said: “This is a rare opportunity to monitor this cryptic species after their release, to try to understand its habitat requirements and ability to survive. It will also be a chance to answer other fundamental questions around their ecology on a site that we are directly managing, which is very difficult elsewhere.” 

Watch the release video here.