Adder, grass snake, slow worm and common lizard licensing

There are six terrestrial reptile species native to Wales. These snakes and lizards 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.

UK legislation

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

NRW can issue licences for several purposes under this legislation, including scientific, research, educational, conservation and photography, but not for development.

European legislation

The sand lizard and marine turtles are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 (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 the possession, transport, sell or exchange a protected species.

For a summary of their legal protection, see legally protected reptiles and amphibians in Wales


NRW issues licences under Regulation 55 of the Habitats Regulations to allow activities involving EPS to proceed, which would otherwise be offences. We issue them for specific purposes stated in the Regulations, if the following three tests are met:

  • The purpose of the work is for preserving public health or public safety or other imperative reasons of over-riding public interest including those of a social or economic nature and beneficial consequences of primary importance for the environment
  • That there is no satisfactory alternative
  • That the action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status in their natural range

Other licensing purposes include the following:

  • Scientific and educational purposes
  • Ringing or marking
  • Conserving wild animals or wild plants
  • Protecting any zoological or botanical collection
  • Preventing the spread of disease
  • Preventing serious damage

When you can apply for a licence

Find out who can apply for a protected species licence

Apply for a protected species licence

If you cannot avoid disturbing protected species, or damaging their breeding sites and resting places, you can apply for a licence for a range of different activities:

Contact us

You can contact us for help at any time before or during your licence application.

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