ARC volunteers recently joined Weald Field Officer and Volunteer Coordinator, Bryony to help release sixteen juvenile sand lizards at Hurtwood in Surrey, as part of ARC’s ongoing sand lizard captive breeding and reintroduction program (carried out under licence from Natural England).
ARC maintain a captive breeding population of native Weald race sand lizards which are reintroduced to areas where suitable habitat has been created and appropriate surveys have been carried out over successive years to ensure the site meets the requirements for a licenced reintroduction.
Hurtwood falls within the historical range of the sand lizard and they were present in the area until relatively recently but due to habitat degradation the population has dwindled. ARC has worked hard to return the heathland to an optimal sand lizard habitat and we are now in a position to release young lizards here to ensure the continued survival of the population.
The lizards released were bred in 2020 and have been given an extra head start as they are larger than their wild compatriots of the same age. They did not hibernate over the winter but were kept active and have had six months more feeding time than wild juveniles have. Being larger than regular yearlings, they will be able to take bigger prey items which gives them more feeding options. This also means they are less likely to be a snack for smaller predators.
The young lizards were released onto sand banks where they spent the first few minutes of freedom basking in the spring sunshine.
This is the first of a three year release programme which, based on the evidence of many years of sand lizard translocations carried out by ARC, will ensure that the local sand lizard population has the best possible chance of success .
If you are interested in volunteering for ARC in the Weald please contact Bryony Davison via email@example.com or 07388 948 868.
Photo credit: Sand lizard head close up by Mike Berwick