Issued by SNH
Pupils of Lochaline Primary School in West Lochaber have embarked on a bid to catch slow worms and relocate them before building work starts on their new school.
The children, all members of the Nature Club, are laying out mats, carpet tiles and strips of corrugated iron in their nature garden. When the sun shines these warm up more than the surrounding vegetation and the cold-blooded slow worms will congregate underneath them to bask.
The move follows advice from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) on how to minimise disturbance to the species during construction.
Slow worms, described as legless lizards (not snakes), are protected, meaning it is an offence to wilfully kill or injure them. Kate Proctor of Highland Ecology, contacted SNH after she found them while carrying out an ecological assessment for the construction of the new school.
SNH's advice was to collect the slow worms and relocate them away from the development site. This has to be done ideally before the end of September when they start going into hibernation.
Cathy Mordaunt, SNH area officer, said: "This is a great project and we wish the Lochaline pupils every success. Slow worms have far fewer places in Scotland to find food and shelter than they did in the past, so it's crucial that we make every effort to protect them when we can."
School head teacher, Keith Adams, will keep the slow worms in his garden compost heap for the winter. The children plan to bring some of them back to the school grounds once the new school has been built.
Mr Adams said: "In my early childhood I remember seeing slow worms everywhere, but my own children had to wait till they were 12, before they saw a slow worm, this coincided with a move to the West Highlands. This highlights what a special place the children in my school are privileged to live in. These slow worms are now a protected species and the children have the chance to carry out valuable conservation work, which will ensure that children of the future will be able to see slow worms. I am always telling them that they are the future rangers, botanists, biologists and protectors of our valuable flora and fauna. This work highlights that point for them.”
The Council will be seeking tenders for the contract to build the school, which will include provision for a new fire station, in the coming months with work scheduled to begin in the spring of next year.