MEMBERS of a social media site have helped save vital heathland habitats from disturbance following a post from a keen photographer and nature lover.

Marine engineer Mark Eggleton, from Weymouth, posted a photo of a sand lizard taken at Higher Hyde Heath between Bovington and Wareham, on the photo sharing website Flickr.

He commented that the spot where he took the photo – adjacent to the Hanson Aggregates site, was being cleared at the time by contractors “removing tin sheets, tyres and cover used by the lizards and other reptiles”.

The online community quickly rallied, contacting all the relevant organisations including the Dorset Wildlife Trust, also contacted by Mark himself, Natural England and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation ARC – which sprung into action.

The thread was also picked up by Dave Bird, librarian at the British Herpetological Society, and by coincidence also Hanson’s Herpetological consultant. He contacted them immediately and discovered that contractors instructed to clearing the buildings on the Hanson site were clearing the boundaries in error.

He wrote: “Just had the phone call and the contractors have been told to stop any work outside the concrete area. Thanks a lot Mark for bringing this to our attention.”

Another Flickr member posted a message from ARC which confirmed that the contractors who “unintentionally strayed into the area where the animals are present” had stopped. It adds: “Many thanks for getting in contact so quickly. In these kinds of situations the damage is often done before we get a chance to find out what is going on and contact the land-owners.”

Mark later posted: “Well done everyone, thank you all for the comments. This just goes to show our Flickr community is a very special place.”

Rob Brunt, head of land management at Dorset Wildlife Trust, said they were grateful to have been alerted: “With social media sites like Flickr helping us respond more swiftly than ever before we are better able to make sure habitats are protected.”