There are six terrestrial reptile species native to Wales. These snakes and lizards all need open areas to bask in the sun before they are able to hunt for food. They also need suitable sheltered places for hibernation.
They have all declined in Britain as natural habitats have been lost. In addition, snakes and even slow worms have suffered deliberate killing; and lizards have been targeted for the pet trade.
This page cannot cover all aspects of the law or reptile ecology, but is an introduction to show how you can help to protect these species.
All British reptiles are protected from intentional killing, injuring and sale under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). These are as follows:
- Adder, Vipera berus
- Grass snake, Natrix natrix
- Slow worm, Anguis fragilis
- Common lizard, Lacerta vivipara
This legislation aims to protect them from persecution and also exploitation in the pet trade.
Our rarest terrestrial reptile, the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), and all our marine turtles also receive protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) from the following:
- disturbing whilst occupying a place of shelter or protection
- obstructing access to a place of shelter or protection
- sale / offering for sale
The sand lizard and marine turtles are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) (known as ‘the Habitats Regulations’). This is because they have 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:
- 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
- To affect significantly the local distribution or abundance of the species to which they belong
There are other offences relating to possession, transport and sale. See ‘Possession and Sale of Protected Species’ for further information.
For a summary of their legal protection, see ‘Legally protected reptiles and amphibians in Wales’.
NRW issues licences under Regulation 53 of the Habitats Regulations to allow activities involving EPS to proceed, which would otherwise be offences. For further information, see ‘Reptile licensing’ and ‘Marine European Protected Species Licensing’.