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Photo © Jon Cranfield

State of Nature launch at NHMIts been a big week for wildlife conservation in the UK, and its overseas territories, with the launch of the 'State of Nature' report at the Natural History Museum on Wednesday 22 May.

For the first time ever a coalition of 25 of the foremost wildlife conservation organisations in the UK have come together to undertake a health check of nature, using the latest data available across the taxa from birds to bugs, and from our smallest liverwort to our oldest mollusc, the quahog clam, that was quietly getting on with its life during the reign of our first Queen Elizabeth, but after 100s of years of peaceful co-existence is now threatened by ocean floor dredging.

There were representatives for our plants, butterflies, bryophytes, fungi, lichens, bees, mammals, and of course our own amphibians and reptiles. Introduced by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, who set out the stark reality of the conservation status of many of our native species, we heard from a number of speakers including the Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon, who reassured us that the UK government has not forgotten thePool Frog copyright John Baker for website importance of conservation, and rounded up in stirring style by the Chief Executive of Plant Life, Victoria Chester, who reminded us all that there is much to do, but that she would be Princess Leia to the Honourable Minister's, Han Solo, should he wish to come on board this particular starship.

Then followed an opportunity to find out more about the range of exciting wildlife projects going on in the UK and its overseas territories, including our own successes with a presentation from Jim Foster, Conservation Director of ARC on the pool frog re-introduction programme  (Pool Frog - right).

Spotlight on Scotland

All is not quiet north of the border either, and this week we are delighted to welcome Peter Minting, who has joined ARC as their new Scottish Project Officer, and is based with Chris Cathrine at the Caledonian Conservation offices in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire ( 

Funded by Scottish Natural Heritage this three-year project is aimed at helping to achieve sustainability in Scotland through helping people engage with their environment, encouraging a sense of ownership and responsibility, and providing opportunities for people to engage with amphibians and reptiles as part of the shared natural heritage of Scotland.  

Daniele Muir getting her award for websiteWe also have some exciting news from Daniele Muir, co founder of the recently formed Tayside ARG.  Daniele has won a prestigious 'Securing the Future' gold award from Perth and Kinross Council for her groundbreaking work on  amphibians in road drains, which she presented at the Herp Workers Meeting, in January, in Edinburgh. 

Quoting from the Permanent Secretary's blog on the Scottish Government intranet! 

"I was over in Perth last Tuesday evening at the Council's annual staff awards, held in their stunning theatre. It was a joyous occasion, taken as a chance to celebrate team successes across the range of the Council's work...There were a host of great entries and awards, but my heart went out to the Amphibians in Drains project. This looks to prevent literally thousands of toads, frogs and similar creatures meeting a sticky end each year by the roadside. Apparently, they fall through the ribs of the drain covers in pretty large numbers and are then unable to clamber out. The solution lies in a small walkway. Engineers have designed a kerb-stone with a rebated edge wide enough to enable these little mites to skirt the drain in single file. Primary school children are evaluating its success with encouraging results. Isn't that great?"

(Photo of Daniele Muir and local councillors, engineers and countryside managers from Perth and Kinross Council from the STFA awards).







Here is a round up of news from the ARG UK twitter account and facebook page

Twitter news

#DidyouKnow tweets from Jo Richards through the ARG UK twitter account have been enjoyed by many people across the UK and beyond. A spanish National Park Ranger has also taken to translating the tweets into Spanish. Jo Richards our publicity officer has taken on herself to tweet two facts about amphibians and reptiles every single day of the year. It has proved quite a challenge so far. Jo recently went on a short break to Greece and so roped in Erik Paterson to guest for a week and providing #Didyouknow tweets to a amused audience. Currently at the time of writing the ARG UK twitter account has 3,659 followers, and we are following 2,957 accounts and we have tweeted just under 12,000 tweets. The use of social media is very important it seems for a radpily changing digital environment the word needs to be spread quickly and to interact with people beyond the usual hard core of herpetologists is vital to help conserve our native amphibians and reptiles. 

Currently we have been hearing about possible arson attacks on adders and other reptiles - though it transpires that the fire was accidential. Even though there were numerous dead animals found later the same week there were reports of matin adders and the combat of the adder was observed. Photos were shared of this rarely encountered wildlife spectacle.

The ARG UK network has provided much needed advice and help to TV. The BBC have a new wildlife series called 'Seasons' and through twitter the BBC was linked up with an adder watcher in Kent to film adders basking in snow. I was Jo Richards who tweeted/posted a photo of a 'snow adder' which led to a very quick turnaround to get a camera man there almost the next day. It was a challenge to get the camera at the right place but eventually Jo, her dogs and a camera man were waiting for the male adder to emerge from his shelter. Jo waited with the cameraman and the British weather closed in. After 2 hours Jo had to leave and, just 5 minutes after, the adder emerged. The cameraman filmed the snake for over 30minutes. We are hopeful that the piece will be used in the series later in the year. This followed on from last year's adder filming where basking adders were filmed in a rather special way - you will have to wait until the series to find out what they did. We will be sure to keep everyone posted. 

If you see an adder please do report it through the Record Pool If you are on twitter then please do follow our account @ARGroupsUK

Facebook group page news 

The facebook page for the ARG UK is going from strength to strength. There are a large variety of different people who have joined the group over the last year. The membership stands at 357 and is steadily rising each day. On Facebook there are also a large number AR groups who also have groups as well as pages. Essex, Kent, Surrey, Suffolk, London are just a few of the groups which have what are known as 'group' pages. Cornwall and Gloucestershire have a page which people can like rather than join.

Lots of news has been posted on the ARG UK group. Topics include the phenology of adders in the UK - Adders were shedding in North West Wales a month before animals in Surrey, Essex, Kent, and even Cornwall.  There are wonderful photographs of the animals being seen, activities undertaken to help our native herpetofauna. Petitions to help save reptile habitats from development along with the latest news from all the different groups around the country helps to keep everyone in touch and up to date with the latest on UK Herpetofauna Conservation

The Facebook page is found here 

This is the first draft of a regular website based news update from the ARG UK.

Photos, videos and other illustrations will be added to this article in the very near future.

If anyone would like to help write up news items, articles and other features from the world of UK Amphibian & Reptile Conservation then please do get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


The Health Protection Agency has recently put out a press release regarding the issue of adder bite enquiries. The reported cases numbering just 196 in three years there was a large percentage of these bites were on the hand leaving the HPA to believe that this was avoidable and so issued the following press release 

This news item will be following the media backlash which has been unleashed due to the press release which was intended to help the public avoid being bitten while out in the countryside. The risk of being bitten is very low over most of the UK. The adder being the most vulnerable and some cases very rare in some counties.

For hundreds of years adders have been persecuted and are now a protected species and cannot be deliberately harmed or killed! Something which was omitted from the HPA press release. 

The press have jumped on the bandwagon with sensationist headlines which may do more harm than good for both people and the adders themselves.

Over the last 20 years the attitude towards snakes has dramatically changed. Many examples of the fascination of the British public in regards to reptiles can be found at the New Forest reptiliary, over subscribed reptile rambles and in one case a regular adder walk each spring where up to 90 people at a time go out to be shown adders in their natural habitat. The ages  of the people range from 8 to 90 and every year the adders never fail to impress and inspire on thee public engagement walks.

It is sad that possibly all the hard work of local council's, country Park rangers, local args, and conservationists in getting a greater acceptance of this much maligned animal to a place where people respect and wonder at this snake still here where other species such as the bear, wolf and other more dangerous animals have gone extinct thanks to humans. There are many people out there who are passionate about their local adders. Hours in the field carefully recording numbers and important habitat features so that year on year individuals are recognized. The pioneers of this sort of work includes the likes of Tony Phelps and Sylvia Sheldon who have studied adders for decades. There are a new band of adder watchers who have taken inspiration from these pioneers. There are many more out there and we would like to record their findings in the Make the Adder Count survey which can be found at 

Some new publications that may be of interest:

The Private Life of Adders by Roger McPhail published by Merlin Unwin books.  Hardback with lots of nice photos. 

The Amphibian Habitat Management Handbook published by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation.  Sister publication to the Reptile Habitat Management Handbook. Available from ARC or you can download a low resolution copy from the ARC website.

Creating Garden Ponds for Wildlife. A 32-page, A5 booklet produced by Pond Conservation and sponsored by World of Water.  Readable on World of Water's website.  Paper copies also heading out to ARGs.

And there's an article on striped grass snakes by Darryn Nash in the Herpetological Bulletin (Spring issue) available to BHS members.



A report on the progress on the new vivaria being constructed in Merseyside to captive breed one of UK's rarest reptiles, the sand lizard, for release in the local area. The captive breeding programme is one of the most successful reptile reintroduction projects in the world and has been coordinated by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation as part of the Natural England sand lizard recovery programme.

The ARG UK was very pleased to be able to support the purchase of materials to build a new home vivaria where sand lizards collected from the wild could be bred to produce healthy young lizards for reintroduction. The funds were provided to the Merseyside ARG through the network's 100% Fund. People can donate to this pot of money reassured that it will be spent on practical conservation directly and is not used for staff, administration costs etc - it does what is says on the tin - providing herpetofauna conservation 100% of the time!

Other projects funded by the 100% fund

Adder genetics project - through the Suffolk Amphibian & Reptile Group

Pond creation projects - Manchester ARG and Essex ARG

We would love to hear from anyone who would like to have small grant for their project - grants up to £250.00 - in some cases more have been allocated in the region of £500 - £1,000 when the fund enables us to do so.

We are pleased to report that Habitat Aid are donating 50% if their profits from their sales of aquatic plants to the ARG UK - we are going to be putting this into the 100% fund to help with practical conservation which benefits amphibians and reptiles directly.


Herpetologic Ltd

CGO Ecology

others to be included here


To be added - news item about progress with one of the largest volunteer surveys into amphibian disease in the UK (if not the world)

The latest results


Just over 180 records have now been collated as part of this years Easter Newt Hunt. A good spread of data has been collected from Cornwall, Devon, Wales, Scotland and even a few records from the Netherlands. We need to get hold of more records so please do make an effort to get to a local pond and use the online form to send in your records. Even if you do not see newts these negative records are just as important. We would also welcome photos of garden ponds to accompany the record you have submitted. An interactive map will be posted on the newt hunt website in due course and a final report will be produced at the end of the summer.

Follow all the latest through twitter @newthunt2011

The Great Easter Newt Hunt is brought to you by a partnership between:

ARC Trust & ARG UK

Join the Great Easter Newt Hunt 2011

from 22nd April 2011 until the 31st May 2011