Sand lizard

North East Wales Sand Lizard Project

Sand lizards are one of three native lizard species found in the UK, but are by far the rarest. Often mistaken for the common lizard, they are distinguished by eye-like dark spots with white centres (called oceli) that stretch down the length of the body and they are much bulkier and bigger than the common lizard.

Male sand lizard showing its bright green markings down the side of his body (Christian Middle)

The males stand out with distinctive green colouration on their sides, which is especially bright during the breeding season. They live in sand dunes dominated by marram grass. Sand lizards are strictly protected under UK and European law and are a priority species for conservation action under the Denbighshire LBAP.


Historically sand lizards were found in sand dune systems across the north and west coasts of Wales. Sadly, they had completely disappeared from the Welsh coast by the mid 20th century, due to development and man-made changes to coastal ecosystems.


The North East Wales Sand Lizard Project spans the counties of Denbighshire and Flintshire and started in 2003, with funding from Countryside Council for Wales. In the subsequent years three groups of juvenile lizards were re-introduced to Gronant Dunes Local Nature Reserve, following the successful re-introductions to neighbouring Talacre Warren in Flintshire. The populations are monitored annually by staff and volunteers. Work is also being carried out to improve the suitability of the habitat in hope populations will stabilise and expand.

A juvenile sand lizard being released to Gronant dunes in 2004

In September 2013 a brand new site at Talacre in Flintshire became part of the project, when around 65 juvenile sand lizards are released. The juvenile lizards, which were bred by Chester Zoo and two additional independent breeders Paul Hudson and Ray Lynch, measured only a few centimetres long. Further releases will take place over the coming years.

Volunteers wishing to find out more about becoming involved in the monitoring programme should contact Lizzy Webster on 01824 708263 or



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