Chester Zoo has assisted in efforts to reintroduce the rare sand Lizard back to the Welsh countryside to help boost their numbers. It is believed that the lizards went extinct in Wales 60 years ago so these animals will help to boost their struggling populations within the North of the country.
Ruth Smith, the zoo’s herpetology keeper said “Sand lizards are the UK’s rarest lizard and populations in some areas are so low that we can’t just rely on protecting the site, we have to help breed them to boost their numbers”
Chester Zoo began working as part of the sand lizard reintroduction programme when it started in 1994. A replica sand dune was established at the zoo using plants from nature reserves to replicate the habitat as best as possible. As such the lizards leave ready for the wild.
Ruth Smith, the zoo’s herpetology keeper said “This year we’ve reintroduced 31 juvenile lizards to the wild – a record for the zoo so we’re really pleased. Slowly and surely we’re getting them back into areas where historically they used to live.”
As the costal dunes and heathlands were fragmented by the expansion of agriculture and buildings there has been a sharp decline in the numbers of sand lizards.
A range of other UK breeding centres assisted in the release and breeding of the critically endangered species during summer.
Smith said, “Surveys have shown that sand lizard numbers have significantly improved in the locations where they have been released before and it’s proven that those bred in the likes of zoos have a higher chance of survival than those that hatch in the wild. That’s because we’re able to give them plenty of food and intensive care in their vital early days and build them up for around four to six weeks, giving them a great head start.”
These lizards are the largest present in the UK growing to 20cm.
Photo Credit: Chester Zoo