Feb 1

Species name: grass snake

Nominated by: Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Least Concern

What is so special about your species?

The grass snake is the largest British species of snake and is non-venomous.

The female lays her eggs usually under a warm mound of vegetation such as a compost heap or manure heap as the fermentation of the vegetation helps speed up the development of the eggs.

Grass snakes have a heart-shaped head, perfect for Valentine’s Day!

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

As with many species of animal, general decline of natural habitat, fragmenting of landscape and increased urbanisation have affected the grass snake.

What can people do to help your species?

Make suitable areas in your garden to encourage the grass snake such as open compost heaps (perfect for laying eggs), leave a wild space in your garden where the lawn can be kept longer and a sunny area that’s perfect for basking in the sunshine! They also like being close by to water so creating ponds in your garden is a great way to help them.

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Feb 1

Species name: Galapagos racer

Nominated by: Galapagos Conservation Trust

IUCN Red List classification: Near Threatened

What is so special about your species?

Galapagos racer snakes shot to fame in 2016 in the BBC’s Planet Earth II when they were filmed hunting baby marine iguanas on Fernandina Island. Despite the scene taking place during their best feeding opportunity of the year, the public and media were quick to demonise the ‘evil’ snakes.

Little is actually known about Galapagos racers. Unlike many other Galapagos species, they are shy of humans and hide away. There is even confusion over the number of species or subspecies of racer snake found in Galapagos. Traditionally three subspecies are recognised, though others argue that there is enough distinction to classify four separate species.

Galapagos racers are constrictors and only mildly venomous, tending to prey on smaller species such as lava lizards and insects. The racers on Fernandina, however, have developed a unique behaviour for a terrestrial snake – hunting marine fish from rock pools!

What are the threats to this species in the wild?

Introduced species are the main threat to Galapagos racers. They are hunted by cats and pigs forage for their eggs – in fact it is thought that this is the reason that they are locally extinct from the island of Floreana. They are also under-studied meaning that population declines could possibly be going undetected.

What can people do to help your species?

Many of the islands on which Galapagos racers are currently found still have invasive predators, hindering their chance of survival. However, along with partners including Island Conservation, Galapagos Conservation Trust are working on an ambitious project to restore Floreana Island which was historically home to racers. Once invasive species are removed and the habitat restored, Galapagos racers can be reintroduced to Floreana, which could hugely improve the species’ chance of survival. We cannot do this, however, without your support. Visit our website to find out more about the project, including how you can help.

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Sep 29

Thirteen ocean creatures have surfaced all around Bristol’s BS5 postcode, snapped by some of the world’s very best wildlife photographers. To prove how turtle-y awesome they all are, we’ve created blogs on all of the featured species sharing ten epic facts about them! Sail your way around the exhibition by downloading your very own map and guide.

1) Marine iguanas are only found on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and are the only marine lizards on Earth.

2) Despite looking like a miniature dinosaur with razor-sharp teeth, the marine iguana is actually a gentle herbivore.

3) Charles Darwin described them as “hideous-looking” and “most disgusting, clumsy lizards”.  Pretty judgmental for hairless bearded ape sailing a boat.

4) When it eats, it swallows saltwater and will sneeze numerous times to get rid of the salt.

5) It can dive to 20m, deeper than most SCUBA divers go!

6) Male marine iguanas sometimes swim between islands to mate, which explains why there is just one species of marine iguana compared with the variety of other Galapagos creatures who remain on their own island throughout their whole life.

7) The female marine iguana is only able to mate for just three weeks per year.

8) A cold-blooded reptile, it must lay around in the sun all day to warm itself up. It needs the sun’s warmth to keep its body temperature up, helping it to digest food.

9) Marine iguanas are normally black or dark grey which helps them absorb the heat from the sun.

10) Marine iguanas love mockingbirds because they hate Galapagos hawks – a predator of iguanas. When Galapagos hawks are on the hunt, mockingbirds let out a distinctive cry, alerting the iguanas to their whereabouts. The enemy of my enemy is my friend!

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