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NCRW supports Hadlow student’s dissertation research

An innovative dissertation project monitoring the behaviour of four corn snakes has begun at the National Centre for Reptile Welfare. The investigation is spearheaded by Robyn Broadhurst, 3rd Year Degree Student from the BSc (Hons) Animal Management Programme and supervised by Mark Beeching Programme Leader.

The National Centre for Reptile Welfare (NCRW) was established at Hadlow College in 2018 primarily as a specialist facility to assist in the rehoming and rescue of reptiles across the UK, and occasionally amphibian and invertebrate cases.

The centre is the only facility of its kind in the UK that is working directly with a land-based educational provider to promote reptile husbandry and welfare. Students at the College have been able to benefit from a range of learning opportunities over the last couple of years. Students have had many opportunities to engage with the NCRW via lectures, work placements and research projects.

Corn snakes are a very popular pet reptile species in the UK, but little data is available on what the optimum level of enrichment when keeping such reptiles in captivity. Robyn’s project is comparing how behaviours vary between two different types of enclosure set-up - two corn snakes are being housed in a vivarium which contains a range of enrichment items such as branches for climbing, numerous hiding spaces and plastic plants and the others are being housed a basic set-up, with less enrichment, which represents a ‘simple’ home setup.

Robyn is recording this research by using Wi-Fi-operated cameras that can record data continuously, enabling the behavioural repertoire of each animal streamed remotely. The eight cameras were kindly supported by the Cantagrian’s Garner Fund, which provides grant support to Higher Education students studying at the College.

Daniel Burgess, Manager of the NCRW said, “Over the last three decades reptiles have become increasingly popular as pets, today they are the third most kept species behind cats and dogs. As our knowledge and understanding of their husbandry has advanced significantly, it is largely anecdotal. Surprisingly, little evidenced-based reached has been done on the husbandry and welfare of captive reptiles.’

He continued, “A key reason for the NCRW establishing a partnership with Hadlow College is to facilitate such research with projects, like Robyn’s. The NCRW takes in over 1,000 animals a year and since opening has seen over 250 species of reptiles and amphibians arrive at the centre, thus giving students’ unparalleled access to a wide variety of species.”

Robyn said “Being able to use Wi-Fi-operated cameras during my dissertation project has enabled me to research reptiles in an innovative way, providing new evidence which can be used to assess reptile welfare and husbandry needs. The support which the NCRW has provided towards my research during this period of online learning has been invaluable’.

Robyn is hoping that the findings of her dissertation research can lead to further work on studying the behaviour of reptiles in the captive setting. For more information about degree programmes like Robyn’s, visit the University Centre at Hadlow website at

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