Fota staving off extinction for three at risk species

Mountain chicken frog - credit: Gerardo Garcia, Chester Zoo
Mountain chicken frog – credit: Gerardo Garcia, Chester Zoo

A frog that doesn’t croak, the largest living lizard, and a tortoise that can live up to 100 years are just some of the species staving off extinction thanks to the help of parks like Fota Wildlife Park in Cork according to a new report.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), which promotes the values of good zoos, parks and aquariums, has compiled a list of the top ten reptiles and amphibians benefitting from the aid of its members in the UK and Ireland.

Three residents of Fota Wildlife Park’s Tropical House the mountain chicken, Axeloti and the Morelet’s leaf frog have all made it on to the list.

Axolotl Credit: Dudley Zoo
Axolotl Credit: Dudley Zoo

Dr Andrew Marshall, of BIAZA’s Field Programmes Committee, who co-ordinated the compilation of the list, said: “The list includes some fantastic species, many of which are facing a dramatic decline and are in a desperate situation in the wild.”

The nocturnal lemur leaf frog is able to change colour – from blending in to leaves around it by appearing vivid green in daylight, to a murky brown which allows it to hop around safely in the dark. However, the wild population of this species has fallen by half over the last 15 years.

The axolotl is able to regenerate whole limbs or organs if it needs to but it is vulnerable to water-quality changes and is Critically Endangered mainly due to high levels of pollution in its last remaining stronghold in Mexico.

Strict criteria were used to select the top ten. All the reptiles and amphibians proposed had to be associated with current field initiatives by zoos and/or essential conservation breeding in zoos.

Morelet's treefrod, credit: Ben Baker, Chester Zoo
Morelet’s treefrod, credit: Ben Baker, Chester Zoo

Particular importance was given to initiatives which included a management role in the species’ conservation, rather than just providing funds.  Priority was also given to species listed as threatened on the international IUCN Red List of threatened species.

TV presenter and naturalist, Nick Baker is supporting the Top Ten campaign this year to raise awareness of these species and the work zoos are doing in their aid.

Nick says: “Zoos and aquariums have a very important role in this whole thing … at the scariest level they are the ark. The problem with these animals is also they are not furry; they do not have an instant appeal to the masses. As a consequence they can get forgotten.”



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