DARN is a network of people in Dorset interested in our native reptiles and amphibians. Its purpose is to promote the conservation, recording and appreciation of native amphibians and reptiles in the county of Dorset. Operating mainly via email and FaceBook, DARN serves as a means of communication between volunteers, professionals and the general public.
Dorset has 12 of the UK's 13 native amphibian and reptile species, and a handful of non-native species. Its internationally-important heathlands are famous as national strongholds for the rare reptiles - Sand Lizard and Smooth Snake - and southwest England's only populations of our second-rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad. With such an important wildlife heritage in Dorset, several wildlife NGOs have their headquarters in the county, including the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC). Together with the various statutory bodies and local authorities, this means Dorset has many wildlife professionals. DARN aims to form a link between all these people, and to nurture an appreciation among the general public for our herpetofaunal friends.
To get on the DARN mailing list, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org with 'DARN' in the subject header. You will receive regular emails telling you of news, items of interest, and projects to get involved in; and there will be at least one annual meeting. Dorset is home to some of the most important reptile and amphibian populations in the country, with a high concentration of protected sites, and a buzz of conservation activities and research projects. There are endless opportunities for helping out by volunteering, and there are already many volunteers in the county who give their time towards projects helping to conserve our herpetofauna, and raise awareness.
We encourage people to take part in reptile and amphibian survey projects like 'NARRS' and 'Make the Adder Count' coordinated by ARC, as well as rare reptile monitoring on sites that are short of voluntary surveyors. We help train people where necessary. There are also numerous opportunities for taking part in conservation tasks across the county (usually winter habitat management), on nature reserves managed by ARC, local authorities, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, RSPB, National Trust and other landowners. DARN aims to provide a link between these bodies and all the keen volunteers that are out there. If you want to offer your services, or you need volunteers for your herp-related projects, then get in touch!
The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (IEEM) - the body representing many professional ecologists - has just published a set of guidance notes on survey skills requirements. The purpose is to advise wildlife surveyors and other practitioners on the minimum level of skills needed for professional species surveys.
The new notes are called “Competencies for Species Survey" (CSS), and are the result of consultation with practitioners, conservation NGOs and SNCOs. There is one for great crested newts, one for natterjack toads, and one for reptiles. They are being promoted as a benchmark to define the minimum knowledge, skill and experience criteria needed to be a professional wildlife surveyor. The full set is accessible here: http://www.ieem.net/competencies.asp.
The new CSS Guidance should be of interest to ARG members as it attempts to standardise the competence that practitioners have. It will also be interesting to see how well they are adopted, and whether they end up performing a function in controversial settings such as public enquiries.
The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC) has announced that 2011 is a bumper year for sand lizard recovery. They have managed to introduce/reintroduce sand lizards to seven sites in England and Wales - possibly a record number. Included in this list is at least one Dorset site, right on the edge of Bournemouth in fact.
ARC has released the following news item: http://arc-trust.blogspot?.com/2011/09/rare-sand-lizards-released-back-to-wild.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+arc-news+%28ARC+-+latest+news%29
With heavy declines and habitat loss now reversed, the sand lizard is finally recovering in the UK. A concerted effort from ARC, Natural England, Countryside Council for Wales, and other partners means that populations are increasing, and the species has returned to nearly all the Vice Counties that it once occupied. The Sand Lizard Recovery Programme is one of the most successful reintroduction programmes anywhere in the world. ARC (formerly the HCT) has overseen 74 reintroductions over the last 40 years, with very few failures.