Froglife is celebrating the first year of our London Dragon Finder project this October, with a huge amount achieved time by our hard working team. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and a number of other funders, this innovative project takes a fun and inclusive approach to conserving reptiles and amphibians in the Capital.
The project runs for another 3 years, and we are already well on our way to our ambitious targets. Here are some of the highlights from our first year:
These art and craft based sessions inspire school children and families to explore the amazing world that can be found under the surface of a pond. By making giant pond creatures and setting them up in an installation for visitors to walk through and explore, the young people learn about the lifecycles and ecology of different pond creatures, including frogs, toads and newts. Working with a range of partners all over the city, we have involved 1386 people in our educational Life Under the Surface sessions. This includes 36 sessions with 735 pupils from 19 schools, 36 teachers and 203 families.
To benefit amphibians, reptiles and other wildlife, we have so far created or restored 8 ponds at 4 sites, with a lot more taking off in the next few weeks. We have run practical habitat work sessions for 32 new volunteers, 2 sessions for young offenders and run practical projects for 21 people experiencing social exclusion through mental ill health or significant illness. To up-skill people to continue to look after habitats and survey for reptiles and amphibians, we have trained 206 new Dragon Finders through 14 courses across London.
Local parks, nature reserves and green spaces are vital hubs not only for people to enjoy but to ensure that London’s wildlife has a home too. Dragon Days are special open days celebrating the amazing sites we are working on and introducing people to the creatures that can be found there, and so far we have organised 9 family-friendly events, which have attracted 1,753 people.
This was one of the most exciting and challenging ideas in the project; to run learning sessions helping people understand amphibian life cycles and pond habitats through sessions in swimming pools. We have run Froglife’s first ever Swimming with Dragons session, with more planned this year and over the course of the project. We are also planning to run sessions in the East of England through our River Nene Dragon Finder project.
In an urban setting, allotments and gardens are incredibly important for wildlife. So far, Froglife has run 5 Wildlife Workshops for 45 gardeners and allotment holders; helping them to understand the benefits of making space for local wildlife and garden in a way that will help the animals to thrive. With Slow-Worms, Common Toads and Common Frogs great garden pest controllers, it’s a win-win situation!
We have a new area of the Froglife website dedicated to Dragon Finder, where you can find out about the project, events and training, discover more about the wildlife and share your own memories and stories about encounters with wildlife in the city. The Living Atlas is an evolving resource, and we also created a free smartphone app, enabling people on iPhone, Android and via a mobile website to feed in their sightings of reptiles and amphibians to help us map where they can be found and identify key habitat sites.
There is still plenty of time for you to get involved in London Dragon Finder, join us Under the Surface, Swimming with Dragons, and become a Dragon Finder yourself. You can find out all about it at the Living Atlas website here