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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 15:15 GMT 16:15 UK
Tiny radios for endangered lizards
Sand lizard (picture courtesy of the Herpetological Conservation Trust)
The creatures are found on heathland across southern England
A pioneering project is studying the lifestyle and habitat of the UK's most endangered lizards.

Tiny radio transmitters will be attached to individual sand lizards in Dorset, in order to find out how much and how far they move each day.

The four-year study will also examine how the creatures colonise fresh areas of heathland.

Funding has come from the SITA environment trust, to examine human impact on animal habitats.

We know that sand lizards have suffered severe historical declines, but it's difficult to know how well they're doing now
Dr Gleed-Owen
Herpetological Conservation Trust

The research will be carried out by Southampton University PhD student Helen Fearnley.

"I'm delighted that after several years of perseverance and many, many hours of field work, funding has finally been secured for this project," she said.

"This research is desperately needed to ensure sand lizard populations in the UK are conserved and enhanced."

Dr Chris Gleed-Owen, of the Herpetological Conservation Trust, said the research was the first major study of its kind.

"We know that sand lizards have suffered severe historical declines, but it's difficult to know how well they're doing now - they're certainly the UK's most endangered lizard.

"We need to be able to monitor the conservation status of these animals and the habitat they live in, to protect their populations and hopefully reverse some losses."

The lizards used to be found throughout southern England and Wales, Dr Gleed-Owen told BBC News Online.

They became extinct outside Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey and Merseyside - but are now being reintroduced to Kent, Devon, Cornwall and north Wales.

Rare sand lizards return to wild
14 Sep 04  |  England
Rare lizards return to wild
09 Sep 04  |  North East Wales

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