Rare Lizards Released At Hengistbury Head

A group of sand lizards – one of Britain's rarest reptiles – have been released back into the wild at Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth.

The last positive sighting of the sand lizard at Hengistbury Head was in the 1960s.

A group of sand lizards – one of Britain's rarest reptiles – are being released back into the wild at Hengistbury Head, Bournemouth. The last positive sighting of the sand lizard at Hengistbury Head was in the 1960s.

Once commonly found on sand dunes and heathland the lizards became endangered due to gradual destruction of their habitats. But a group of 80 captive bred sand lizards, reared at Marwell Zoo, have recently been re-introduced at Hengistbury
Head as part of a long-term conservation project to restore the species status.

Mark Holloway, Bournemouth Borough Council's Countryside Operations Manager, said:

 "Recent conversation measures, such as restoring the health of our heathland and coastal dunes through scrub clearing and grazing have allowed us to reintroduce a small population back into their natural habitat."

Currently there are ten captive breeding centres for sand lizards including Marwell Zoo. The centres have outdoor enclosures that mimic the sand lizard's natural environment. From here, the captive bred juveniles are released on the re-introduction site in early September to allow the animals to gradually get used to the re-introduction site before hibernation in October.

Nick Moulton, Reptile Conservation Officer, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, said:

"We feel that the re-introduction of this rare and beautiful animal has every chance of success. Hengistbury Head is very well managed for all wildlife and the sand lizard should thrive. As ever, such re-introductions can only be undertaken with the enthusiasm and support of all the partners, staff and volunteers."

Councillor Rod Cooper, Cabinet Member for Economy, Leisure and Tourism, said:

 "We are delighted that the experts feel we have made such good progress in protecting Hengistbury Head for the public and wildlife alike, and that these rather beautiful creatures can once again be returned to this special place."

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