Conservationists are asking Dorset residents to help them spot non-native lizard species

ECOLOGISTS are asking residents to help spot lizards across the county, as part of a nationwide project.

Researchers are studying the ecology of non-native lizards that have established themselves in the UK and they need the help of Dorset residents to find them.

Specifically, they want people to go in search of the alien wall lizard, which has thrived in places where it was deliberately introduced in southern England.

Robert Williams, PhD researcher, said: “You can help us assess how widespread lizards are in the UK and make a valuable contribution to this project by reporting your own sightings of wall lizards in the UK, whether locally or further afield.”

With the help of the general public, researchers hope to try to find out what the ecological consequences were of the introduction of the wall lizard on our shores.

They want to study the size of the lizard’s population, assess the extent of the lizard’s expansion and see if new populations of the lizard can be identified.

Evidence suggests that numbers of native sand lizards and common lizards have declined in areas where wall lizards have established themselves.

Mr Williams said: ‘The wall lizard is very agile and, unlike British lizards, which spend a lot of time on the ground, it can often be seen running on vertical surfaces such as rock faces and walls. They are very easy to spot when basking on sunny days.

He added that there are two types of wall lizards in the UK, the brown-backed form originating from France and the green-backed form originating from Italy.

Both types of lizards have a mottled pattern on their backs, sometimes with blue scales on their sides.

They reach about 20 cm in length, with the tail making up about two-thirds of its total body length.

Mr Williams said: ‘We have relatively few native reptile species in the UK compared to the mainland and more exotic locations.

“Some would say the introduction of non-native reptiles to the UK, such as the Aesculapian snake, terrapins, wall lizards and the visually striking western green lizard, is an improvement on our native biodiversity, creating more interesting viewing for nature lovers to enjoy.”

“The release of non-native reptile species is illegal, however, and as with any species introduction, intentional or unintentional, there is the potential for negative impacts on native species.”

If you’re sure you’ve encountered a wall lizard, you can show researchers exactly where on their interactive map by visiting bit.ly/lizarduk

You can also email Robert Williams at [email protected]

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