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Rare Reptiles

22 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 30 May 2010

2/18. Lionel Kelleway teams up with The Amphibian & Reptile Conservation (ARC) Trust's Dorset Reserves community officer, Roland Griffin, on a quest to find Britain's rarest reptiles. They've come to the right place. Town Common, just north of Bournemouth, offers a wide variety of habitats and is home to all six of Britain's reptile species. The forecast? Cloudy and cool with sunny intervals - ideal reptile finding weather. To increase their chances further, pieces of corrugated iron sheet are deliberately placed around the common by ARC to help them with reptile surveys. Snakes like to slither under the tins for shelter and warmth.

Within minutes, and to their utter delight, under the first tin they discover Britain's rarest snake, the Smooth Snake. Permitted by ARC's special licence to handle reptiles, Lionel has the thrilling privilege of holding the slender brown snake which rests calmly in his hands. Smooth Snakes have severely restricted distribution, being found only in coastal heathland. This habitat is declining fast. A few empty tins later, they uncover two slow worms, legless lizards which look like snakes. Finally, as the sun emerges from behind the clouds at last, conditions become perfect for lizard spotting. As Lionel and Roland wander along a sandy track, there under the heather at the side of the path, is a Sand Lizard, Britain's rarest lizard. It's a beautiful male, resplendent in pea green breeding colours. They get close enough to make out the speckles on its flanks before it slips away into the undergrowth. Sand Lizards are enjoying something of a resurgence as captive breeding and release programmes boost their numbers. It's not often you'll get to encounter both of Britain's rarest reptiles in one morning and Lionel and Roland are elated.

Produced by Tania Dorrity.



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