At 17, they were meant to be taking their A-levels this year. But Harvey Tweats and Tom Whitehurst have a big ambition: to replace the toads, frogs and lizards we have lost

The new enterprise taking shape on a strip of derelict land beside a garden centre in Leek, Staffordshire, would be extraordinary at any time. But the large pond, greenhouses, cabins and homemade enclosures that will comprise this particular startup are positively miraculous given that it is driven by two 17-year-olds, both studying for their A-levels in the middle of a pandemic.

Childhood friends Harvey Tweats and Tom Whitehurst are on a mission – to rewild Britain by restoring reptile and amphibian species that are either virtually extinct or have been extinct for centuries in this country. Their company, Celtic Reptile & Amphibian, will soon open what the pair believe will be the country’s largest outdoor breeding facility for reptiles and amphibians. They hope it will be the first step in restoring lost species so that British ponds, lakes and wetlands once more resound to the croak of pool frogs and agile frogs as well as other once-common lizards and frogs. In the long term, Tweats and Whitehurst hope that the European pond turtle (which they source from Moldova) and the Aesculapian snake, already unofficially released in a couple of UK sites, may be embraced as new native species after being absent from the country for thousands of years.

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