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Photo © Jon Cranfield

What is it?

Whilst most of the leeches you will encounter in the UK are a natural part of your ponds' ecosystem and doing no harm to other wildlife, in 2020 as well as this summer, we received unusual reports of leech predation on amphibians from a small number of quite widely spaced locations in Southern England. In each case there were reports of leeches apparently feeding on common toads (Bufo bufo) and common frogs (Rana temporaria). Affected toads had leeches attached to their eyes, throat and axillae; the frogs seem less affected on their face, but are targeted across their flanks and underside. There have also been reports of newts being affected in a similar way.

Rather puzzled by these unusual reports of leech predation, our volunteers at the Hampshire and Isle of Wight ARG (HIWARG) reported these cases via the Garden Wildlife Health (GWH) portal for their input. The wildlife vets at GWH were collaborating with the Natural History Museum who made tentative suggestions regarding the species involved based on morphological similarities; however, in order to confirm the identity of the leech species in each incident, molecular methods are required and are in progress.

To date, there are very few records, but last year HIWARG volunteers reported leech predation on amphibians across the eastern half of the Isle of Wight and they are continuing their investigations there this year. Whether this is a new occurrence, or if recent reports reflect increased awareness, is so far unknown.

How can you help?


The power of the volunteer ARG network is many eyes on the ground - boosted by all our lovely garden pond owners. So please do keep a look out, and if you spot something similar contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact the Garden Wildlife Health Project directly. If possible, take photos and contact them regarding potential submission of a fresh leech sample.

Amphibian recovery - we have had some volunteers take the toads in and carefully help restore them to full health! So there is hope, but its painstaking work!!


P costata 2021 1 HIWARG    P costata 2021 2 HIWARG     P costata 2021 4 HIWARG

The Record Pool has been in development for a period of time now. Over the coming months many more developments will surface in relation to the online recording database for Local Amphibian & Reptile Groups. The Record Pool has a Sighting Card which is optimised for use with mobile devices such as smart phones, tablet PCs (iPad, PlayBook etc). The mobile device form was previewed at the Midlands Regional Meeting on the 22nd September and has had its launch today (24th September). You can find the sighting card on the following link

Further features will be added to the Record Pool and it will also be moving to its own domain in the New Year. The new website will be launched at the Herpetofauna Workers' Meeting on the 25th to 27th January, Edinburgh. The main focus is now on getting the Record Pool to function and to collate important records from sources which may not be available for local groups and the local record centres. Datasets have been received from iSpot, Pond Conservation and the RSPB. 

Records submitted so far

The record pool has collated just over 2,300 records from around the UK. A boost to the records came from two ARG groups who had collected records at public events this autumn. Taking the lead from the Kent RAG who have collected thousands of records from public events across the county. Essex ARG attended the Essex Country Show, an evening talk in Brentwood and most recently the open day at the Wallasea Island Project by the RSPB in total almost 250 records were collected including some rather unusual sightings from Tilbury where Agamas and geckoes have been reported. Gloucestershire ARG attended the Stroud Festival of Nature where over 150 records were collected.


Amphibian and Reptile meetings this autumn

MeetingHWM2011 Tobias UllerHWM 06. Jim F.jpg

A series of meetings are planned for this autumn which will provide an interesting insight into the work which ongoing to help our native amphibians and reptiles in the UK. it provides a chance for people to network, learn from each other and to inspire future project work which aims to help our amphibians and reptiles.

The first meeting is actually this coming weekend (22nd September) where the ARG UK regional meeting for the Midlands is being hosted at the National Forest Conkers site near Moira - further details from the Derbyshire Amphibian & Reptile Group. This meeting will see the launch of the mobile version of the Record Pool which will hopefully revolutionise how amphibian and reptile recording in the UK.

The British Herpetological Society have organised a meeting with an international feel with talks on various species such as Chameleons in Madagascar to the blue iguanas in the Cayman Islands. This is on the 21st October in Amersham Community Centre - more details 

The Welsh Dragon Project's meeting which is the Welsh Amphibian & Reptile Symposium on the 3rd November. Through a partnership project with Amphibian & Reptile Conservation the symposium has a series of talks and presentations on topics such as natterjack toads in Wales, Aesculapian snakes, reptile mitigation & survey protocols, adder DNA research and reptile habitat management. There is also a chance to hear from ARG UK and the Wales Amphibian & Reptile Link on how all the local groups are engaging with the National NGO and the statutory bodies to deliver real conservation for our native amphibians and reptiles. The South East Regional meeting is being hosted by the Hampshire Amphibian & Reptile Group at Marwell Zoological park on the 17th November. The theme of the meeting is 'Best Practice; Survey, Mitigation and Legislation'. more details will follow soon.

The last meeting of the year is the joint scientific meeting of Amphibian & Reptile Conservation and the British Herpetological Society on the 9th December at the Bournemouth Natural Science Society - download the flyer 

These meetings all offer a different flavour of the efforts of volunteers and professionals in helping our threatened amphibians and reptiles in the UK, Europe and overseas. Its a really good diary of indoor events which helps people get over the colder winter months and leading up to the national meeting there will be further regional meetings in the South West and East of England (more details to be announced soon). People often say that the best meeting by far is the national meeting organised jointly by ARG UK & Amphibian & reptile Conservation - 

National Herpetofauna Workers' Meeting 2013

The Herpetofauna Workers' meeting  is on 25th to 27th January and will be in Edinburgh more details will follow in due course follow progress on the hash tag below



school frog masks pic 1 resize


Have we got Newts for You!

People may remember that Jim Foster was the Amphibian & Reptile specialist for the government's nature conservation advisor Natural England (formerly English Nature) and previously before that was the widespread species officer at Froglife where he supported the Local ARG network through passing on his advice and knowledge over the phone at that time. The number of AR groups increased dramatically over the 1990's and continues to do so today. 

After leaving Natural England last year and starting up the consultancy Cristatus Ecology Jim had been working in a variety of 'interesting projects'.  Jim had to take up an opportunity to get back into the voluntary sector. He accepted an appointment to become the Conservation Director at Amphibian & Reptile Conservation and has started in the role from the 3rd September.  Jim explained further in an email to his contacts last week:- 

 'This is a new, full-time, permanent position, focusing on biodiversity policy'. 'It's an exciting opportunity to join a great organisation, and help them to make a real difference for amphibians and reptiles'. As a consequence, Cristatus Ecology will be closing down. I will keep the website up for occasional postings, and the email address will continue.'

Jim is looking forward to working with the ARG UK panel, and the 60+ local ARG's in the near future.  

All the ARG UK Panel and, we are sure, all the voluntary groups will be wishing Jim well in his new role and hope to see him at the Herpetofaun Workers' Meeting next year in Edinburgh. 


Contact information

Jim Foster

Conservation Director

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation

The Witley Centre



Surrey GU8 5QA

Tel: 01428 681059

Mobile: 07554 455365

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.







vipera berus

Working with adders - Chris Monk discusses his work protecting Britain's only venomous snake

Chris Monk has been helping protect the British adder (Vipera berus) for many years. As well as being Britain's only venomous snake, it is also the most northerly distributed one. Unfortunately populations are in decline, but important progress is being made.

OPAL caught up with Chris to talk about his work with this well-known reptile and ask if there are any ways we can help protect it too.

Find out more on the OPAL NHM website 

The National Planning Policy Framework - is it all bad news for reptiles and amphibians?

Cameron the Crested Newt

‘Yes’ I hear many of you cry – and in essence that is the problem with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Government’s new planning proposals for England.  The headline messages are simply not strong enough in favour of conserving the natural environment and, partly as a consequence of this, the document reads like a developers’ charter.  Emphasising as it does the need for a strong ‘pro-economic growth’ agenda’, the current wording threatens to jeopardise large areas of our countryside and many of the ‘brownfield’ sites (derelict/ former industrial land) that are so important for reptiles and amphibians.

There are, however, some principles within the NPPF that we at Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC), and others in Wildlife & Countryside Link, the NGO forum through which we do much of our campaigning work on Planning legislation and policy, do subscribe to.  We support Sustainable Development (with the emphasis on Sustainable!), we see a benefit in a more proportionate and locally accountable planning system and we see value in a ‘plan led’ approach that can define conservation as well as socio-economic objectives for an area.  The 58 page document is meant to be read and considered in its entirety – for those with the stamina to reach clause 163 there is a section on the Natural Environment and scattered through it are little nuggets that could give us hope, had we not been distracted by the less positive messageselsewhere.

ARC, through W&C Link, is actively campaigning to address some key over-riding issues, and in particular:

  •  the need for a clear and workable definition of sustainable development;
  •  that there should only be a presumption in favour of development that clearly accords with an appropriate definition of the term ‘sustainable development’; and
  • clear links must be made between the NPPF and the Natural Environment White Paper.

The Prime Minister has recently made a personal intervention and has emphasised his commitment to safeguarding our countryside – but we also wish to see wildlife conserved throughout England and not just in our designated National Parks.  For truly sustainable development to happen as a result of the NPPF, the whole document must reflect the fact that our long term economic growth relies on protecting and enhancing the environmental resources that underpin it, also paying due regard to social needs.  Without this basis, the presumption for ‘sustainable development’ will simply be a licence for ‘sustained development’.  The NPPF, as written, has rightly angered many environmental and local organisations and has sustained a barrage of criticism in the press.  Let us hope that the Government is listening and takes this opportunity to create a planning system that delivers truly sustainable development - a thriving economy alongside flourishing wildlife.  ARC will continue to campaign to try to make this happen.

The opportunity for Public comments continues until 17th October (see we would encourage you to have your say). 

Tony Gent

CEO Amphibian & Reptile Conservation

The Sticky Tongue Project

The ARG UK is pleased to introduce the Sticky Tongue Project - for a while now these dedicated herpers have brought some amazing photos and films of amphibians and reptiles from their local area of the Netherlands. Their articles feature herpetofauna stories from around the world. It is well worth a read.

The project has recently visited the UK to film British snakes. A variety of different cameras have been used to capture unique footage and photos of many different types of amphibian and reptile. From yellow bellied toads to sand lizards and adders.

Sticky Tongue Project

A brilliant introduction to the team is this short film of a young smooth snake hunting lizards in the Netherlands. The species is also rare as it is in England. 

(warning - this shows animals, in this case young lizards, being eaten)

Volunteers in the UK are planning a future project with the Sticky Tongue Project in 2012 - more details will be released on this in the coming months.


Mini Documentary - Smooth Snake Special

Tadpoles Protect Themselves from Predators by Being a Not-So-Tasty Treat

You can find out more by visiting the Sticky Tongue Project Website

Herp conservationists might be interested to see that the natterjack toad has become the poster boy for the Campaign Against Sprawl.

The Campaign Against Sprawl is

We are a new campaign campaigning for a sustainable alternative to the government's national planning policy framework (NPPF).

a) An umbrella grouping of different bodies, with seed core funding and temporary staff secondments.The model would be Wildlife and Countryside Link.

b) A 'task and finish' campaign initially. If the campaign is successful the decision could be made at a future date to continue as a 'do tank' – see below.

c) Rather that individual members it would have supporters signing on through new media. The group would aim to spread through new media to the extent that traditional media would sit up and take notice – as with the recent Save Our Forests Campaign. There would also be local supporters groups at a town and village level. These would form the Campaign Against Sprawl Network. Existing groups could sign on to the network by supporting the national groups aims.

d) It would initially be registered as a company limited by guarantee with seed core funding provided by one or more of the founder groups.

e) The approach would take inspiration from American groups promoting 'Smart Growth' -such as the Smart Growth Network and the Congress for New Urbanism, the aim would be to promote a Smart Growth agenda rather than just a growth agenda.

f) It would publish research but would be more than a 'think tank' it would be a 'do tank' acting as a counterweight to the Policy Exchange's anti-planning agenda

The Campaign Against Sprawl has adopted the natterjack to illustrate its cause because....some more guff from its website.

Then add some comment - e.g. why the natterjack is/is not a good illustration of the issues at stake (this last point would distinguish you from Froglife who just recycle stuff with little ability to add to the story).

Scottish Frog Website

Clyde ARG are hosting the Scottish Herpetology Meeting in November this year. The programme is coming together and will be published soon on the Scottish Frogs website.

As it stands the following is planned

  • David Bell: Fife ARG: hands on conservation and surveying in his area (apparently very active there and most northerly GCN site)
  • Chris Cathrine: Buglife and Clyde ARG: Scottish grass snake ecology/ distribution/ surveying
  • Trevor Rose: BHS: Saving lizards in Montrose
  • Ben Ross: SNH: Legislation and poilcy surrounding herps in Scotland
  • Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust: natterjacks on the Solway Firth


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Following consultation with ARG members, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation staff, ecological consultants and other volunteers at workshops at the Herpetofauna Workers' meeting the reptile mitigation guidelines have been published by Natural England (9th September 2011)


The link is:

Natural England welcomes feedback on this document, to help improve future versions.
Please send comments to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


Pond Conservation had a brilliant week creating the first of the 3rd round Biffaward MPP ponds at the Forestry Commission site at Windy Bank in Lancashire

David Orchard, [the MPP] amphibian officer [ & chair of ARG UK], helped create a whopping 18 ponds providing new homes for our native amphibians - including smooth and palmate newts, frogs and toads, all of which have been spotted at this site.

Million Ponds Project Information

Note: that is a great number of ponds in a week! if we could create that many each week for a year that would be over 900 ponds. It just goes to show why people should support the million ponds project. Lets get thousands more ponds created in the wider landscape.

London ARG

Book your place at the ARGUK SE Regional Meeting to be hosted by KRAG and London ARG at the Medway Campus of University of Greenwich on Saturday, November 19th. 

The programme is nearly finalised and will focus on adder conservation.  Highlights include a review of the ground breaking work in adder conservation taking place in both Kent and Surrey as well as presentations from KRAG's European partners, and the University of Basel.

We are now accepting bookings so don't miss out.  The cost is £10 for members of an Amphibian and Reptile Group and £20 for all others.  Price includes lunch and refreshments.  For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Download the booking form here.

SE Regional Meeting 2011 Book Form

It is very welcome to see that the IEEM in conjunction with Amphibian & Reptile Conservation have recently produced guidance sheets on the required knowledge and skills of professional consultants/ecologists to survey for UK Herpetofauna. In the series there are guidance sheets for

All the Competencies for Species Survey (CSS) are available to the public via the IEEM website and include a variety of different protected species which are often subject to surveys for development and other land use change projects

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation

Institute of Ecology & Environmental Management

Some of the 'come back kings of the Natural World' [in the UK at least] were all sharing the limelight on the ITV Alan Titchmarsh Daily chat show (see ITV clip captures below)

Natter_Jack Sand_Lizard

See the show on ITV player forward onto 06.20mins to see the part about these animals 

Chris Davis from Amphibian & Reptile Conservation was on hand to explain why these rare animals are coming back from the brink in the UK.

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation have recently been releasing young sand lizards into the wild in England and Wales this autumn. Bringing more hope that further lizard populations will be established

Here is an example of a release of sand lizards on the Sefton Coast

Sand_lizard_release Sand_lizard_release_4 Sand_lizard_release_2

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation is the leading NGO for amphibian and reptile conservation in the UK.

...... into the Wild in England & Wales 

Male Sand Lizards (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation)

This week conservationists will be giving the UK's rarest lizard further helping hand in, which has been termed as 'one of the most successful reptile reintroduction projects in the world', It is all thanks to Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, and an army of volunteers who have surveyed, monitored and managed sites then reared and released these animals over many years.  The release of c.500 captive bred lizards into 7 sites in England & Wales this autumn has given a much needed boost to the animals fortunes in the UK.

There are ten captive breeding centres for sand lizards including Chester Zoo and Marwell Wildlife, New Forest Reptile Centre, Avon Heath Country Parkand thanks to funds from our 100% fund a merseyside captive breeding centre was established this year. 

Jonathan Webster, ARC Chair of Trustees said "We are delighted with the success of the sand lizard re-introduction programme. So far the partnerships have instigated 74 re-introductions to both dune and heathland sites in 12 vice-counties and restored the species to 7 of these. 80% of these have been successful or going well and more are planned for the future."

We have high hopes for this year's re-introductions as these large sites are well managed by our partners; Countryside Council for Wales, MoD, National Trust, Lancashire Wildlife Trust, Bournemouth Borough Council, Waverley Borough Council. Ongoing surveys by trained site staff,  Amphibian & Reptile Group volunteers [among others] will let us know how the species is doing in the long term, and when they start to colonise new areas.

Local ARG groups are involved with monitoring sand lizard populations 

Baby sand lizards released this week
  • Surrey Amphibian & Reptile Group

  • Kent Reptile & Amphibian Group

  • Hampshire Amphibian & Reptile Group

  • Cornwall Amphibian & Reptile Group

  • Devon Reptile & Amphibian Group

  • Merseyside Amphibian & Reptile Group

  • South West Wales Amphibian & Reptile Group

Please look up your local group contact to find out more 

If people want to find out more about our native amphibians and reptiles or can help with surveying and monitoring please contact us at the address' provided below.

Photo credits - male sand lizards (Amphibian & Reptile Conservation)

For further information contact:

Nick Moulton / Chris Davis, Amphibian & Reptile Conservation, 01202 391319, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Jim Foster, Natural England, 0300 060 1163, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Liz Howe, Countryside Council for Wales, 01248 387257, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Further news stories - 

Wildlife Extra - Rare sand lizards released back to the wild on Merseyside

Wales Online - Rare sand lizards to be released in dunes near Aberystwyth

BBC Mid Wales - Sand lizards bred at Chester Zoo return to Ynyslas

Wrexham Leader - Recovery scheme to release rare lizards back to the wild

First News - Britain's rarest lizards released back into the wild

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation is the leading NGO for amphibian and reptile conservation in the UK. 

CLARE Project at The Mayor’s Thames Festival 2011

The Mayor’s Thames Festival is a huge free, outdoor arts festival that takes place along the banks of the River Thames each September. This multicultural event combines arts, music, dance, river races, carnival and foods of the world to celebrate the River Thames and London’s diverse communities and cultures.

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation’s CLARE Project will be taking part in this fantastic event and will be situated in The Blue Ribbon Village. The village will be located on and around Potters Fields Park, by City Hall and on the riverside walkway. This area forms the Festival's environmental zone and features activities such as pond-dipping workshops, bee-keeping, colourful flags by artist Shona Watt, music from around the world, art workshops and storytelling, a bar and food stalls and much more!

Sophie our CLARE Project Officer will be on hand with information about our native amphibians and reptiles, animals on display and the chance to record local sightings and get involved in this exciting new project. So come along and meet some of the cities scaliest Londoners!

For more information about the CLARE Project and other upcoming events click here

For more information about the Mayor’s Thames Festival click here

Amphibian & Reptile Conservation