Reptile Relocation!

Our construction company, Willmott Dixon, fills us in on what’s been happening on site...

Preparations Underway
Before construction can start, we have to prepare the site for the works to take place. For example, we have recently surveyed all of the buildings on site to see if any of them contain asbestos – the buildings which are to be demolished will need to have any asbestos carefully removed by special contractors before we knock them down.

However, the most important thing which has happened this summer and autumn has been the protection of the slow worms on the site.

Surveying the Slow Worm
Before construction can start at any new development, ecology and wildlife must be considered to help protect species and incorporate areas of value for wildlife in the final development. The new Route 39 Academy school will be located on a former caravan park and ecology surveys have found out which species occur at the site. Assessments have been made of how building the school might affect the species that are present and the habitats that they live in.

The school is located in an area rich in wildlife, with ancient woodland enclosing the grounds.  Of the species recorded, the population of slow-worms would be most affected by the new school development.  Slow-worms are reptiles that look very much like a small snake but are actually a ‘legless lizard’.  A slow-worm differs from a snake by having eyelids and their head is a distinct shape.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, it is an offence to intentionally harm or kill any native reptiles in the UK. The risk of slow-worms being injured would be extremely high without specific measures. Consequently the population of slow worms has been relocated to new areas of the school grounds.
Relocation, Relocation
Initially a reptile proof fence was installed around the school development area to stop any new reptiles from entering the site and to contain the existing population.  Three hibernacula (reptile hibernation features) and several log piles were created in the areas into which reptiles were to be relocated.  These features along with the existing habitats will help to sustain the relocated population providing shelter, protection from predators, prey species, basking places and somewhere to safely hibernate over winter.  

All reptiles are cold blooded animals and require warmth to become active throughout the day to forage and hunt.  Individuals find safe areas to bask in sunshine and catching slow-worms takes advantage of this process.  Refuge mats were placed across the site.  Slow-worms used these mats to heat themselves up in the morning and at the end of the day when the surrounding environment was cooler.  During these periods the ecologist checked the refuges and caught any reptiles that were using them.  All the caught animals were then moved to specific release locations in the wider school grounds away from the construction areas.

Over 100 have been relocated!

Future habitat management will maintain good quality features for a wide range of wildlife and ensure that the slow worm population continues to thrive in the grounds of the new Academy.