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Sand lizard

The sand lizard is a European Protected Species (EPS). It is against the law to damage or destroy its breeding site or resting place, or deliberately to capture, kill, injure or disturb a sand lizard

The sand lizard is Wales’ rarest reptile. It was once common along the north Wales coast, but became extinct during the 1960’s, a result of development and sea defence work. It has now been reintroduced and a breeding population has been established on several coastal dunes.

The sand lizard is more bulky than the common lizard, and the male develops vivid green flanks in the spring. As with all reptiles, it needs open areas to bask in the sun before it is able to hunt for food. It also needs a suitable, sheltered place to hibernate in the winter.

This page cannot cover all aspects of the law or sand lizard ecology, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect the species.


The sand lizard is protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017, known as the ‘Habitats Regulations’, because it has declined throughout Europe in recent decades.

Under the Habitats Regulations, it is an offence if you:

  • Deliberately capture, injure or kill any wild animal of an EPS
  • Deliberately disturb wild animals of any such species
  • Deliberately take or destroy the eggs of such an animal, or
  • Damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of such an animal

Disturbance is defined as that which is likely:

1. to impair their ability –

  • to survive, to breed or reproduce, or to rear or nurture their young, or
  • in the case of animals of a hibernating or migratory species, to hibernate or migrate; or

2. to affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species to which they belong.

Defra and the Welsh Government will publish a joint guidance document on the interpretation of the offences relating to disturbance, and to damage and destruction of breeding sites and resting places.

There are other offences relating to possession, transport and sale.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981(as amended) (W&CA) it is illegal to:

  • Intentionally or recklessly disturb any sand lizard while it is occupying a structure or place which it uses for shelter or protection, 9(4)(b)
  • Intentionally or recklessly obstructs access to any structure or place used by sand lizards for shelter or protection, 9(4)(c)
  • Sell, offer or expose for sale any sand lizard, 9(5)

It is, however, legal for you to tend a disabled sand lizard with the intention of releasing it, or to kill one that cannot recover, as long as the injury was not a result of your unlawful act (Habitat Regulations 44(2); W&CA 10(3)(a)(b)).

Natural Resources Wales (NRW) issues licences under Regulation 55 of the Habitats Regulations to allow you to work within the law. You might need a licence to undertake dune management, scrub clearance or a development, for example. See ‘Sand Lizard Licensing’ and ‘Do I need a European Protected Species Licence?’ for more information.

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