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Animal Management students help upgrade habitat for Common Lizard

Small green lizard pictured in grass

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas, met South Eastern Regional College (SERC) students along with other volunteers at Scrabo Tower in Newtownards last week, where the group was working to upgrade the habitat for the local lizard population.

The Common Lizard is the only terrestrial reptile in the country and Scrabo has been identified as having an existing lizard population. However, due to scrub encroachment, the usable habitat was slowly being lost so a programme of works was devised by the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership with the ‘Dragons in the Hills’ project. 

The project has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund in partnership with the Amphibians and Reptiles Group (ARG) and the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership. Over the course of two days, Council staff worked with National Trust, SERC and local volunteers to upgrade the habitat.

Jonathan Cash, Deputy Head of School for Animal Care, said “We were so pleased that HND in Animal Management students – Rae Lowry, Rebecca Watson, Leanne Reid, Rachael Close and Eibhlin Goodwin – were able to take part in this project, which gave them a fascinating insight into the habitat and challenges facing the only terrestrial reptile in the country which just happens to reside on our doorstep.”

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas, said: “I am delighted that Ards and North Down provides a home for the country’s only native reptile. The Common Lizard is classified as a priority protected species but there are only a few sites that are specifically managed for them. With that in mind, the work at Scrabo, which was a joint effort between Ards and North Down Borough Council, the National Trust’s Strangford team, the Strangford Lough and Lecale Partnership, Bangor SERC students and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, is very worthwhile.” 

Work carried out included the removal of gorse and bracken to expose walls and rocks. This has provided a more usable space for the lizards where they can bask in the sun, while a hibernaculum was created for them to overwinter in.

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