Rare lizards believed to have gone extinct in Wales have been released on sand dunes in a bid to boost populations.
The species has gone through major decline due to habitat loss, with its coastal dune and heathland habitats becoming increasingly fragmented by agricultural expansion and building developments.
But a captive breeding and reintroduction programme is now helping the lizards to make a comeback at a site in Talacre, north Wales.
Herpetology keeper Ruth Smith said: “Sand lizards are the UK’s rarest lizard and populations in some areas are so low we can’t just rely on protecting the site – we have to help breed them to boost their numbers.
“Surveys have shown sand lizard numbers have significantly improved in the locations where they have been released before and it’s proven those bred in the likes of zoos have a higher chance of survival than those that hatch in the wild. That’s because we’re able to give them plenty of food and intensive care in their vital early days and build them up for around four to six weeks, giving them a great head start.
“This year we’ve reintroduced 31 juvenile lizards to the wild – a record for the zoo, so we’re really pleased. “Slowly, but surely, we’re getting them back into areas where, historically, they used to live.”