13 July 2012

Dragons on the Move

Following the fantastic news that Froglife’s London Dragon Finder Project has successfully received funding from HLF, we are delighted to announce plans to develop a Scottish version of the exciting project.
Reptiles like the Common lizard are amongst the animals set to benefit from the new Scottish project
“Since starting Froglife’s first Scottish project in 2009, people from all over Scotland have been asking Froglife if projects will be rolled out into their local area so we knew there was a demand for raising awareness of amphibians, reptiles and their habitats,” explains Eilidh Spence from Froglife. “Recording of these species is poor in some rural areas in Scotland so this is also something we are keen to improve - more information leads to improved conservation.”

“Froglife will be tailoring the Dragon Finder project to reach out to the diverse areas of Scotland and planning future learning and conservation activities,” adds Kathy Wormald, Froglife’s CEO. “We will be looking for new partnerships and areas to work in throughout mainland Scotland. It’s a really exciting opportunity for us and for future conservation of amphibians and reptiles.”

The development phase will last until March 2013 when an application will be submitted to HLF for a main grant. If successful, Froglife aims to start delivery of this four and a half year project towards the end of 2013. Some of the exciting new activities that will be developed include:

• Urban Tails exhibitions created by local primary schools and community groups demonstrating what amphibians and reptiles you could find in your local area
• Dragons on the Move road shows travelling around mainland Scotland to deliver fun sessions on how to identify and record different ‘dragons’
• Dragons in the Hills events with outdoor pursuit enthusiasts to improve recording in more remote areas of the country
• Habitat creation and restoration work
• Creation of a Living Atlas, mapping sightings and stories about amphibians and reptiles.

For more information on the Dragon Finder Project in London click here

If your organisation or group would be interested in being involved with future Scottish Dragon Finder activities please contact Froglife’s CEO Kathy Wormald Kathy.wormald@froglife.org.

11 July 2012

Dragon of the Month: Slow-worm

Froglife is featuring a different 'dragon' every month in 2012 to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dragon.  This month, Living Water Officer Iain Maclean has been investigating an often misunderstood repltile, the Slow-worm. 

"Having a look into the reputation of the Slow-worm in the past, it is surprising to learn that it was once considered a venomous and evil creature to be killed and cut up when encountered. Also called the blind worm, it pops up in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the ‘blind worm’s sting’ is a potent ingredient of the witches cauldron. Another old name of the Slow-worm is ‘deaf adder’ which may be a biblical reference to a venomous snake so wicked it could not be charmed or tamed. As well as this in some fairytales the Slow-worm is said to be forever searching and seeking vengeance for the nightingale after losing its legendary single eye to the bird, hence the reason the nightingale must stay alert all night in song.

In fact the Slow-worm is a benign and beautiful creature (with two eyes!), and presents no real danger to humans. It is more closely related to lizards than snakes, having lost its legs in an example of convergent evolution. Its smooth body allows it to glide through vegetation and catch small soft bodied insects such as slugs; and it can therefore be a welcome predator of pests in the gardens it frequently inhabits. Although Slow-worms may try and sting with the horny tip of their tail when handled, the sting is not venomous and unable to pierce the skin, and in fact when frightened they are just as likely to shed their tail in order to escape.

The name Slow-worm itself is also misleading, as they can move very fast when prompted. Some sources claim the name actually originates from the Anglo Saxon word slay (or slaw) as in a worm which kills (or perhaps a slayer of worms!) or as a slow ‘wrym’ (snake like creature) in comparison to snake species. However the origins of the name and of alternative names such as blind worm are far from clear.

Whatever may be in a name, the Slow-worm is a fascinating creature, and one frequently found in close proximity to humans. It can be the reptile people are most likely to encounter in their daily lives, and can therefore be seen as perhaps our best chance to appreciate the beauty of reptilian beings."

Dragon Factfile: Slow-worm
(Anguis fragilis)

Juvenile and female Slow-worms have a darker stripe along their backs

• The slow worm gives birth to live young (ovovivipary); eggs are hatched within the female’s body.
• Slow-worms can live for decades; the record is a Slow-worm in Copenhagen zoo who lived for 54 years! Although they are expected to live for much less in the wild.
• Slow-worms are vulnerable to predation by cats. The level of predation can have an important effect on local distribution.

Slow-worms have unique head markings and, unlike snakes, they have eyelids 

• Slow-worms range in colour from grey to brown to bronze
• Males are grey-brown, sometimes with blue flecks
• Females are golden brown with a darker underbelly and sides
• Females and juveniles often have a darker stripe along their back
• They can be 4-45cm in length 

Male Slow-worms are grey-brown and sometimes have blue flecks amongst their markings
Differences between Slow-worms and snakes
• Eyes which blink (snakes cannot blink)
• Broad flat tongue with notched tip (snakes have a flickering forked tongue)
• Blunt tail tip (snake tails taper to a fine point)
• Skin with smooth scales, skin appears shiny and polished (snakes have rougher, clearly defined scales).

Photos: Jules Howard and Sivi Sivanesan

9 July 2012

What YOU Can Do for Wildlife: Part 7

As we have shown through the list of our 12 favourite ideas for actions to help amphibians and reptiles in 2012, there are all sorts of indoor and outdoor things you can do to get involved. One of the key things that the conservation sector needs more of in general is funding, and this is something you can help with too.

Idea Number 7. Fundraising

Every penny donated helps support Froglife's conservation and education work
Froglife exists thanks to a range of funders – Froglife Friends who support us with annual donations, people and organisations who give one off donations, grant makers who fund projects and people who pay us to undertake conservation work for them. Every penny helps us to continue or work conserving animals and habitats, and introducing new audiences to conservation.

The whole team gets involved in fundraising, whether it’s developing a new project and writing a bid, or something more personal. Staff and volunteers have undertake swims and runs, and Froglifer Laura Brady ran a half marathon for us in 2011. “I chose to do it for the challenge,” says Laura. “I’d do more challenges in the future as it’s something that really benefits you and wildlife. You finally push yourself to do something you’ve always wanted to, for a purpose more than just yourself!”

We really appreciate everything that people can do, directly and indirectly, to help us raise funds. A big thank you goes to all of our Facebook fans who recently helped us to win a £1,500 donation by voting for us in a competition by pet insurance company Animal Friends.

Here are some ideas if you fancy getting involved in helping support amphibians, reptiles and habitats, many of which can be fun too!

• Undertake a sponsored challenge like Laura and fundraise through Virgin Money Giving
Contact us for a Froglife fundraising jar
• Hold a non uniform day at school
• Organise a bake or crafts sale asking for donations for homemade goodies
• Go to a car boot sale to get rid of some of your clutter
• Organise a music event like Froglifer Jodie Coomber, who combined her love of rock music with fundraising at our Reptiles Rock event last year - thanks to the band Cobra who donated ticket sales and donations from the night!
• Open your garden and ask for donations
Take part in Bridge PR's Pinterest competition and pin your bridge pictures
• Set up a legacy donation for Froglife in your will, or have a memorial collection rather than flowers
Shop with us online
Sign up and shop through Every Click, and online stores will donate on your behalf
Enter our Great Crafted Newt competition
Make an online donation at Ploink
Sponsor a project at The Big Give
Download the Froglife song
Sign up as a Froglife Friend
Make an online donation

How did you get on? Have you got any top tips for others having a go at fundraising? Please do share your tips and stories with us.

Photo: Laura Brady