by Andrew Heaton, County Recorder for Amphibians and Reptiles, LARN
The LARN (Leicestershire & Rutland, Amphibian and Reptile Network) network have been working in partnership with those with an interest and enthusiasm for the amphibians and reptiles of the two counties to produce a review of the distribution and status of the herpetofauna of Vice-County 55. We intend that the basic data gathered can be used in various different ways: to provide conservation evidence, particularly when engaging with development or other land use changes; and also as a record of the evolving conservation scene of the last two decades, with its various changes of approach (Red Data Books, Biodiversity Action Plans, Living Landscapes, etc), which are essentially recycling the same conservation advice under different labels depending on the current vogue.
However, we are pleased to report that we have also been able to step beyond the limitations of putting ‘dots on maps’, and look at other aspects of our local herpetofauna. This includes considering [anecdotal] early views of our herpetofauna (usually rather rude and pessimistic); identifying important habitats for herpetofauna in the two counties, and advising on management issues. We also consider interactions of our amphibians and reptiles with other species, be they disease, parasites and/or predators, which has led to some interesting stories about headless grass snakes, the revolting life cycle of the Toadfly, and gull predation around refuse disposal sites. Other interesting issues include the strange case of the pythons which continue to appear in Leicester's waterways, and the invasion of a Hinckley house by toadlets! We have even considered the place of herpetofauna in our cultural heritage, with reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, carved stone toads on Ashby de la Zouch parish church, Frog place names and the wonders of Loughborough's Ladybird Books.