The role of the BHS in the conservation of our native herpetofauna: The BHS Conservation Officer acts as a conduit to encourage members to become involved in UK conservation initiatives by working in partnership with the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC Trust) and the Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the United Kingdom (ARG UK).
ARC Trust (formerly the HCT) was established in 1989 with the aim of employing professional herpetologists that could work full time on specific projects and conservation action which signalled the move away from the reliance on BHS volunteers who had limited time. This was a fantastic development and resulted in positive conservation measures. ARC Trust continued to concentrate primarily on the conservation of rare herpetofauna such as sand lizards, smooth snakes and natterjack toads and since 1989 BHS members were encouraged to carry out monitoring and habitat management.
The three BHS reserves are now entirely managed by ARC Trust and a programme of management tasks takes place that BHS members can become involved in. Dates for management tasks in Dorset, Surrey and Hampshire will continue to be published in the Natterjack.
Due primarily to the work of the ARC Trust and government initiatives the conservation of our rare herpetofauna is now ensured and funded but the next priority is to look at the conservation status of the 'so-called' widespread or common species. A recent review of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan has in addition to the rare herpetofauna species recognised the need to improve the conservation status of slow worm, common lizard, grass snake and the common toad. This is reinforced by recorder observations in the field, such as the decline of the adder in the Midlands and long term declining toad populations.
ARG UK and the ARG network was established in 1994 and is now the country's leading voluntary organisation for herpetofauna conservation. With over 50 groups up and running the network continues to grow and develop. ARG UK organises the annual Herpetofauna Recorders Meeting and BHS members are encouraged to join their local group. ARGs provide training in reptile and amphibian ecology and surveying techniques together with a free insurance scheme.
Individual BHS members can also get involved with the National Amphibian and Reptile Scheme (NARRS). This involves visiting sites in your locality and reporting back on the conservation status of any amphibians and reptiles seen.
The BHS Conservation Officer also organises an annual visit for BHS members to areas of herpetological interest, so members can gain first hand valuable herpetological experience. Visits to Jersey, Surrey and Dorset have been undertaken and reports of these field visit reports have been published in the BHS Bulletin.