Project status
Sandy heathland and sand dunes
United Kingdom
Project collaborators
Tony Sainsbury, ZSL

Dr Tony Sainsbury

Senior Lecturer Wild Animal Health

Dr Tammy Shadbolt, Wildlife Veterinarian, ZSL

Dr Tammy Shadbolt

Wildlife Veterinarian & Post-Doctoral Research Assistant

Georgina Gerard headshot

Georgina Gerard

DRAHS Project Manager

The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) has disappeared over much of its former range in the UK. Habitat loss and fragmentation are cited as the main factors in the species decline.

A major component of the Species Action Plan (now Species Recovery Programme; SRP) for sand lizard recovery has been the reintroduction of lizards into their former range, using captive-bred animals. Releases have been taking place since 1969 supervised by the British Herpetological Society (BHS), Natural England (NE) and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC). There are now thought to have been 74 sand lizard translocations, the majority of which are considered to have been ‘successful’.

sand lizard examination in gloves

Protecting the sand lizards' future in the wild

The DRAHS (Disease Risk Analysis and Health Surveillance) team were consulted in 2003 and asked to carry out a disease risk analysis (DRA) for the translocation of sand lizards from captive collections to the free-living population. Risks were identified and the degree of risk posed by each hazard analysed. In view of the DRA, it was recommended that sand lizards underwent a series of health checks and tests prior to reintroduction.

DRAHS also commenced disease screening of free-living sand lizards to check for the bacterium Serratia marcescensEntamoeba species, paramyxoviruses, iridoviruses and ectoparasites. The DRA as well as Disease Risk Management and Health Surveillance (DRM PRHS) protocols were re-evaluated and improved in light of these investigations in order to mitigate against disease risks during reintroductions.


  • Identification of health hazards relevant to the translocation of sand lizards from captive to free-living populations.
  • Improved management and surveillance protocols to mitigate against disease risks during reintroductions.
Examination of the heart of a sand lizard with a doppler probe in Dorset pre-release
sand lizard in grass
Project Information

Key Species

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)

People Involved

Dr Tony Sainsbury

Dr Tammy Shadbolt

Helen Donald

Georgina Gerard


  • Natural England
  • Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust
  • British Herpetological Society