DARN is an informal 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, 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 Chris Gleed-Owen 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!
DARN is encouraging 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. There are also other important local survey projects, such as surveying all ponds in a particular area for great crested newts, or monitoring the spread of alien species such as wall lizards or green frogs. We help train people where necessary.
In addition to the formal survey projects running in the county, it is important to have a means of collating informal and casual reptile and amphibian sightings. To help us achieve this, the parent ARG UK website has a recording facility. It does not aim to replace the existing recording systems run by ARC and DERC (Dorset Environmental Records Centre), and all records collated by this website will be shared with ARC and DERC (subject to sensitivity and privacy considerations). We encourage you to record all your casual and informal sightings here.
Don’t assume that because you have seen a common toad in your garden, or an adder whilst out walking, that ‘the experts’ already know about them being present in the area. Very often, a single report from the general public can fill in a large gap in the distribution map! Reptile and amphibian recording in Dorset is heavily-biased towards the southeast of the county (where nearly all the heathlands are), and records from the north and west of the county are fairly scant. One project that DARN hopes to take a lead on in the future is the collation and publication of a county atlas of reptiles and amphibians in Dorset.