Introduction

Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Common Wall lizard
(Podarcis muralis)

The Common Wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) is an attractive, fast-moving, agile lizard of upto 20cm (8 inches) in length; which has been introduced into the United Kingdom from mainland Europe, through a mixture of deliberate releases and accidental escapees.

Native status?

There has been some discussion as to whether the Wall lizard is a species native to the UK, as it is in the Channel Islands. Although it cannot be ruled out with all certainty, there is no scientific evidence to support such a claim.

One argument that is frequently cited is an analogy with the Pool frog, which was believed to be an alien species, yet has recently been accepted as a native. This acceptance of the native status of the Pool frog was based upon scientific assessment of substantial evidence (including ancient records, museum specimens, zooarchaeological remains & DNA analysis), rather than mere speculation, as is the case with the Wall lizard.

Distribution

The lizard has become established in several geographically isolated colonies across (predominantly) Southern England, with reliable records of releases going back as far as 1932. May 2007 will mark 75 years since the first documented release of Wall lizards in the UK.

Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

UK distribution of the Common Wall lizard
(Known current & historic, 2006).

Ecology

Some of these colonies are thought to fill ecological niches, where the existence of Wall Lizards is believed to pose no significant threat to native wildlife. In these settings the Wall lizard undoubtedly offers additional interest to visitors, bringing further beauty and activity to the British countryside.

Unfortunately, when their habitat is shared with native lizards, such as Common Lizards or the rare Sand Lizards, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that the Wall lizard will compete with native animals and, due to its superior dexterity, aggression, adaptivity and fecundity, the invader will usually dominate.

The Law

Until 1981, it was not illegal to release a foreign species into the British Countryside, unless it posed a threat to people or livestock. This changed with the introduction of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Section 14 of this act states:

If any person releases, or allows to escape into the wild, any animal which -
a) is of a kind which is not ordinarily resident in and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state;
Or
b) Is included in Part 1, of Schedule 9.
He shall be guilty of an offence.

The Wall lizard is not considered to be ordinarily a resident in Great Britain. In addition, the species is explicitly listed under Part 1 of Schedule 9.

This means that any introduction of Wall lizards into the British countryside since 1981 is defined as a criminal act. If an amateur breeder has had animals escape from an outdoor vivarium, then he too has committed a criminal offence, as he has "allowed to escape into the wild" a Schedule 9 animal.

Although the Bern Convention led to the listing of the Wall lizard as a protected European animal; such protection is only assured where the animal is a native, and not when introduced as is the case in the UK.

Keeping track

Knowing the locations of Wall Lizard colonies, and monitoring their population dynamics will allow the herpetological community to keep track of the spread of this species, and provide data necessary to assess any risks presented.

Although limited to the South of England, the current distribution extends over a far larger area than can be managed by a County amphibian & reptile group.

This experiment is an attempt to track the distribution and range of Wall Lizards in the UK by using the volunteer resources of an internet forum group (RAUK e-Forums). RAUK has established itself as the premier native amphibian and reptile forum in the UK, and has dominated predominantly due to its inclusive attitude and by regular contributions from some the country's top herpetological experts.

Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

A young adult male Common Wall lizard Podarcis muralis watching passers-by.
(Ventnor, Isle of Wight, 2005).

Monitoring

The current phase of the experiment aims to determine the location and status of existing colonies of Wall Lizards within the United Kingdom. This will enable the monitoring of inception and extinction of colonies, and will form a sound foundation for subsequent work. Follow-on work may include monitoring of the extent of range and population size for each colony, to test the hypothesis that these colonies are self-limiting in numbers and impact.

How to help

If you know of a place where Wall lizards have established a colony let us know! Or if you fancy a trip out to spot lizards at a known location, then this will help us keep track of that colony.

The first step is to join up to the RAUK forums. If you are interested enough to be reading this, then I guarantee that you will find very many items of interest on RAUK, and it is completely free!


Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Adult male Common Wall lizard
(Podarcis muralis, Boscombe 2006.)

Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Courting pair of Common Wall lizards
(Podarcis muralis, Boscombe 2006.)


National wall lizard distribution

Information concerning Wall lizard colonies has been gathered through the submissions of RAUK members, and by means of an extensive literature search. Particular thanks are due to David Bird, Chairman of the conservation committee and librarian of the British Herpetological Society.

Summary results
Wall lizard baseline project

26 known colonies 15 colonies exist 6 extinct colonies 5 colonies of unknown status
Public access 10 2 4
No public access 5 2 0
Unknown access 0 2 1

Map Key:

  • Recorded colonies with animals present.
  • Recorded colonies now extinct.
  • Recorded colonies of unkown status.

The following list shows known colonies, both current and historic. Click on the colony name for further information.


Almost all the information I have is presented on these following pages, however there are a few deliberate omissions. There are currently three instances where data remains unpublished:

  1. Some information is provided in confidence, due to personal or legal issues.
  2. Where a colony is based upon a private residence, the exact location is witheld for obvious privacy reasons.
  3. Where a colony has public access and is deemed fragile, the exact location is witheld to protect the animals.


I am content to release restricted information to persons with appropriate needs, but a passing interest is unlikely be deemed as sufficient grounds.

Buckinghamshire

East Burnham Common

Devon

Paignton

Chaplin Estate

Dorset

Boscombe (Portman Ravine)

Poole Cliffs

Portland 1 (Duncecroft Quarry)

Portland 2 (West Weare)

Purbeck 1 (Winspit Quarry)

Purbeck 2 (Dancing Ledge)

Purbeck 3 (Durlston Castle)

Hampshire

Holmsley

Unknown

Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight (Ventnor Town)

Isle of Wight (Other)

Kent

Little Switzerland

London

Kidbrooke

Hampton

Oxfordshire

Burford

Shropshire

Ludlow

Somerset

Wellington

Stogumber

Surrey

Farnham Castle

Newdigate

Nutfield

Sussex

Shoreham-by-Sea

Haywards Heath

Any Wall lizard colonies missing? Let us know HERE!


Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Head close-up of the Common Wall lizard
(Podarcis muralis, Ventnor 2006.)

Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Ventral surface of the Common Wall lizard
(Podarcis muralis, Ventnor 2006.)


REFERENCES:

  1. Smith M. (1951) - The Wall Lizard (Lacerta Muralis) In England - British Journal of Herpetology - Vol.1 p99-100
  2. Edlin H. (1952) - The Changing Wildlife of Britain - Batsford. - p126
  3. Lever C. (1977) - The Naturalized Animals of the British Isles - Hutchinson & Co. - ISBN 0 09 127790 6
  4. Stiles D. (1979) - The Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis in Middlesex - The London Naturalist, No.58, 1979
  5. Stafford P. (1989) - Lizards of the British Isles - Shire - ISBN: 0 7478 0028 6
  6. Quayle A., Noble M. (2000) - The Wall Lizard in England - British Wildlife Dec 2000 - p99-106
  7. Brede et al (2000) - Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2000), 70: 685695.
  8. Wycherley J., Anstis R. (SARG meeting - 14 Jan 2007) - Pers. Comm.
  9. Bird D. (2007) - Pers. Comm.s Jan - May 2007.
  10. O'Shea I (2007) - Pers. Comm. Mar 2007 re Wadstray House & Lord Chaplin.
  11. Snell C. (2007) - Pers. Comm. Mar 2007 re Birdbrook nature reserve.
  12. Noble M. (2007) - Pers. Comm. Mar 2007 re location of Ludlow colony.
  13. Folds A. (2007) - Pers. Comm. Mar 2007 re location of Portland colony.
  14. Piley R. (2007) - Pers. Comm. May 2007 re Wadstray House (Chaplin Estate).
  15. Newton J. (2007) - Pers.Comm. May 2007