Celebration of Dragons in the Hills as Project Comes to an End
Over the last three years, the Dragons in the Hills project has sought to discover more about Northern Ireland's little dragons – our three native amphibians and reptiles: common frog, common lizard and smooth newt.
The project, which is led by Amphibian and Reptile Groups of the UK in partnership with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and The Herpetological Society of Ireland, is now drawing to a close. Through £100,000 of funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, it has worked to improve our understanding of these beautiful but poorly understood animals across The Ring of Gullion, the Mourne Mountains and the Strangford and Lecale AONBs.
Participants from all walks of life have got involved over the last three years, including students from 12 local schools, members from community groups and people from the business sector. Through a number of outreach events and field trips, they have helped to explore and study these creatures and their habitats and learn about the importance of conservation and monitoring. To celebrate the programme's success, on Thursday 30 March the participants enjoyed a final morning exploring the ‘small places’ of Slieve Gullion Forest Park, looking for the three dragon species and taking part in some fantastic environmental games and activities.
At the event in Slieve Gullion, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Michael Savage also discovered more about our amphibians and reptiles and met with some of the landowners and schools involved in the project. Talking about the importance of the project, he said, " We only have three native amphibians and reptiles, and two are designated priority species based on widespread declines. More is needed to be known about their distribution and abundance and how they are faring in today's fast-changing world.
“The Dragons in the Hills project has worked to improve our knowledge of the conservation status of the amphibians and reptiles in Newry, Mourne and Down. We have mapped their distribution and are encouraging land managers to create and connect important habitat features to increase the area suitable for them. From creating simple habitat piles of brush and rocks to fitting specially designed amphibian ladders into traditional land drains, the project has worked with school children, landowners, businesses and community groups to reconnect local people with their rich historic and natural heritage.”
“I would like to thank our funders, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, for providing the financial support to help us to deliver such an important eco project within our district. Thanks also to our delivery partners and all the participants who volunteered their time to help us learn more about our own little dragons.”
Dr Sally Montgomery, Northern Ireland Committee Member for The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said, “We know that nature is incredibly important to National Lottery players, and this funding for the Dragons in the Hills project means that they can play their part in preserving Northern Ireland’s significant and varied wildlife. We’re incredibly proud to be playing a role in ensuring our natural heritage is safeguarded for generations to come, but also that the projects we fund give people the chance to connect with the nature and wildlife that is on their doorsteps.”