National wildlife charity set to save Scotland’s amphibians and reptiles

Amphibian and reptile conservation banner.

A new project aims to conserve amphibians and reptiles across the UK, and save their disappearing habitats.

The new and ambitious conservation initiative is led by Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC) – a national wildlife trust, committed to conserving amphibians and reptiles across the UK, and saving the disappearing habitats on which they depend.

Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) aims to address conservation and welfare needs and increase understanding of the country’s six amphibians and four reptiles over three years, involving Scotland’s communities in monitoring their populations and improving the habitats they call home.

Possibly our most recognizable amphibian, the common frog is distributed throughout Britain and Ireland, and can be found in almost any habitat where suitable breeding ponds are nearby.
Possibly our most recognizable amphibian, the common frog is distributed throughout Britain and Ireland, and can be found in almost any habitat where suitable breeding ponds are nearby.

ARC works in partnership with land managers, governmental organisations, NGO partners and local groups to protect species, and restore or create habitat features to allow native amphibians and reptiles to thrive in Scotland.

John McKinnell, NatureScot’s mammals, reptiles and amphibians adviser said: “NatureScot has worked successfully with ARC on projects for many years. We welcome this project which will continue the momentum of amphibian and reptile conservation in Scotland to which ARC has been a key contributor.”

Natterjack toad which is rare in the UK.
Natterjack toad which is rare in the UK.

These resilient creatures, frogs, toads, newts, lizards and snakes, are under increasing threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, climate change, pollution and the spread of diseases They have long been seen in gardens as well as the countryside, being found on the top of Munros and basking in the heather and provide a vital indicator of how healthy the local environment is. However, there appear to be fewer sightings of adders and toads across Scotland, with the implications being that all native species are facing some kind of population crisis.

Janet Ullman, ARC’s education officer for Scotland, said ”Ten years ago, most primary school children I worked with had seen a frog or a toad, many saying how they saw them in their garden, in a park or even along the pavement.

Slow-worms are lizards, though they are often mistaken for snakes.  Unlike snakes they have eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop their tail to escape from a predator.
Slow-worms are lizards, though they are often mistaken for snakes. Unlike snakes they have eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop their tail to escape from a predator.

“Today when I ask a class if they have seen a frog or toad less then half have. This is not only an urban problem, but appears to be a problem across Scotland. We need people to be aware that a silent spring is not only the loss of bird song, but also the loss of that chorus of croaking from our ponds and lochans.”

Rachael Cooper-Bohannon, ARC’s SSAAR project officer highlighted the importance of the citizen scientists in monitoring species. “ARC is an evidence-based conservation organization and we urgently need more people to record their sightings of amphibian and reptile species, to enable us to get a better picture of how Scotland’s amphibians and reptiles are doing and what priority actions are needed to help conserve them.”

Through SSAAR there will be a range of activities, talks and workshops for community groups and schools to help people appreciate their cold-blooded neighbors and to do simple things such as the provision of habitats in their gardens, as well as training and support for volunteer surveyors.

The project expands ARC’s work in Scotland by building on the charity’s previous adder and great crested newt conservation projects and has its own dedicated funding page at www.justgiving.com/campaign/SSAAR

To find out more about volunteering opportunities and news updates visit: www.arc-trust.org/saving-scotlands-amphibians-and-reptiles to register your interest


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