Keepers and conservationists at Wildwood Trust took delivery of 4 of Britain's rarest lizards today.
The Sand lizards which were believed to have gone extinct in Kent in the 1970's, will be bred at the Canterbury based wildlife conservation charity with a view to reintroducing them to their former range.
The sand lizards - an endangered UK species – survived in Kent until the 1970's on sand dunes and one of the last reported sightings was next to Herne Bay close to the Wildwood Animal park.
The species has gone through major decline due to habitat loss, with their coastal dune and heathland habitats becoming increasingly fragmented by agricultural expansion and building developments.
But a captive breeding and reintroduction programme is now helping the lizards to make a comeback across the UK and Wildwood has now joined forces with leading conservation charities to play its role in the sand lizard's comeback.
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.
The Lizards came from Chester zoo who have already pioneered the breeding and reintroduction of sand lizards to areas they have gone extinct.
Wildwood's Paul Whitfield who collected the lizards said: "It is a great honour to have these precious animals entrusted to our care. After we have bred them in controlled conditions in our Conservation Centre there will be a chance for visitors to see the sand lizards in a large enclosure we are building that mimics their natural habitat and will help us breed more for the future."
Wildwood Trust's, Peter Smith said: "Working with conservation partners we hope to breed and restore sand lizards to their former range. Scientific research has shown that sand lizard numbers can have a significant boost when captive bred animals are released. Those bred in zoos have a higher chance of survival than those that hatch in the wild thanks to the intensive care in their early stages of development, giving them a great head start."
Sand Lizards are just one of the many endangered and nationally extinct animals that are being protected at Kent's unique conservation wildlife park. Wildwood Trust offers its members and visitors a truly inspirational way to learn about the natural history of Britain by actually seeing the wildlife that once lived here, like the wolf, bear, beaver, red squirrel, wild boar and many more. To visit us go to www.wildwoodtrust.org or telephone 01227 712111.
Sand lizard facts
1. The sand lizard was once commonly found on dunes and heathland in Britain but the gradual destruction of its habitats has led to its extinction in many places
2. According to the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation group (ARC), the lizard was lost altogether from a number of counties including Cheshire, Cornwall, Kent, Sussex, and north and west Wales
3. More than 90% of suitable habitat has also vanished from Merseyside, Surrey and Dorset 4. During the breeding season male sand lizards adopt a bright green colouration to attract a mate. Females are often a sandy brown colour
5. The sand lizard is Britain's only egg-laying lizard. The females lay eggs in burrows dug in the sand in June or July, before they hatch a couple of months later
6. Sand lizards are the UK's biggest lizard species and adults can reach 20cm in length
7. Sand lizards tend to hibernate between November and March, but can be seen basking on rocks in sandy heathland and dunes during the summer
Wildwood Trust opened in 1999 as a centre of excellence for the conservation of British wildlife, and was established as a registered charity in 2002. Wildwood is Kent's best British wildlife park. Home to over 200 native animals, past and present and set in 40 acres of beautiful ancient woodland where visitors can see bears, wolves, bison, deer, owls, foxes, red squirrels, wild boar, lynx, wild horses, badgers and beavers plus many more. As one of the leading British animal conservation charities in the UK, Wildwood Trust is dedicated to saving Britain's most threatened wildlife. Wildwood Trust have taken part in many ground-breaking conservation programmes to date, which include, saving the water vole, using wild horses to help restore Kent's most precious nature reserves, bringing the extinct European beaver back to Britain and returning the hazel dormouse & red squirrel to areas where they have been made extinct.
Wildwood Trust Herne Common Herne Bay Kent CT6 7LQ