For several years, reptile keepers at the Chester Zoo have been releasing juvenile sand lizards in an effort to bolster their populations in the wild.
Thought by some to have gone extinct 60 years ago, the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) of the United Kingdom has been the beneficiary of a captive breeding program that has for the last several years released them into their native habitats in an effort to help them multiply and thrive.
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"People ask why we captive breed them, and the answer is they are the UK's rarest lizard, and their numbers are so low that we can’t just rely on protecting the site so we have to boost their numbers," said Ruth Smith, a reptile keeper at the Chester Zoo. "From surveys we've performed, the numbers have significantly improved in the locations where we have released. This is part of a long term conservation project."
The species, listed as threatened in the UK and protected under UK law, has declined due in part to habitat loss, agricultural expansion and building developments. The Chester Zoo hopes that the breeding program and subsequent reintroduction of the species in the wild will help the little sand lizard to make a comeback.
John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata