Get involved

Photo © Jon Cranfield

Support the 'Reptile Slough Genebank Project'

Research indicates that our native reptile populations may be in decline, and more information is urgently needed to understand what is happening.

In the UK a important factor could be increasing fragmentation and isolation of populations, through development and habitat loss, leading to reduced genetic diversity. Responding to these concerns, we are working together with our partner organisation, Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, to ask people to collect and send in snake and other reptile sloughs (shed skins) from across the UK. DNA will be extracted from these sloughs and used to build up a 'Reptile Genebank' that can be used for long term studies into the effects of population isolation. The condition of the sloughs will also be able to tell us more about the impact of other external factors such as trauma from predator attacks, or parasites that may be affecting them.

How you can help

If you find a snake or other reptile slough anywhere in the UK, please send it to ARC using the following guidelines (see also Reptile Slough Genebank)

1. Do not disturb, handle or physically remove the slough from any reptile.
2. Please keep each individual slough separate, even if it is from the same site or refuge. Any contamination will compromise or invalidate the value of the slough.
3. Collect as much of the skin as possible, but it does not need to be entire to be useful
4. Record the grid reference (Minimum four figure, i.e. XX 12 34) and/or postcode
5. If the slough is wet/damp please dry it out as best as you can, but avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight as this can destroy the DNA.
6. Before placing each slough in a separate, dry paper envelope and sealing it, write on it:

  • which species you think it is
  • the location you found the slough
  • the date you found it
  • your name and contact details (especially email)

Place this envelope (or envelopes) in another envelope and at the end of each season post to:

Reptile Slough Genebank, ARC Trust, 655a Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH1 4AP

Please note:  If you collect more than one slough you MUST ensure that you keep them separate from the moment you collect them.  Any contamination will compromise or invalidate the value of the slough.

What to do if you find a dead reptile?

If you find a dead animal then please report it to the Garden Wildlife Health Project as soon as you can:

This is a joint project between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), to which we are also collaborators, that aims to monitor the health of British wildlife.  

The project is currently funding veterinary specialists at the Institute of Zoology to investigate more about our native fauna, particularly: garden birds, hedgehogs, reptiles and amphibians. They are particularly interested in reptiles, as they have received relatively few animals, so any that we can send will help them to build up a bigger picture about our native populations.