Fota helps three species avoid extinction

A frog called the mountain chicken (because it's hunted as food), a type of salamander and the Morelet's leaf frog are some of the species to avoid extinction thanks to Fota Wildlife Park in Cork.

The British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) has published a list of the top 10 reptiles and amphibians to benefit from the aid of its members in Ireland and the UK.

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

The mountain chicken, the world’s biggest frog, got its name as it is commonly hunted for food.

The axolotl is a critically endangered amphibian which retains its tadpole like appearance as an adult and has an extraordinary ability to regenerate limbs.

Meanwhile, the Morelet's leaf frog has the ability to parachute between trees.

The Komodo dragon, with less than 1,000 left in the wild, also makes the list and one of the most sought after reptiles in the illegal pet trade, the ploughshare tortoise, also makes the list as does a UK species, the sand lizard.

Dr Andrew Marshall, of BIAZA’s field programmes committee, said: “Zoos are part of a global conservation community.

“Last year, BIAZA published a report of the top 10 mammals most reliant on zoos, which highlighted the work being done by zoos to help safeguard their future.

“This year, we have focused on 10 prevailing examples of reptiles and amphibians that zoos are working to save from extinction. The list includes some fantastic species, many of which are facing a dramatic decline and are in a desperate situation in the wild.

TV presenter and naturalist Nick Baker, who is backing this year’s top 10 campaign to raise awareness of the species, said: “Zoos and aquariums have a very important role in this whole thing – at the scariest level they are the Ark.

“They are where the insurance populations of these animals can be looked after and understood and studied.”

He added: “As much as BIAZA are very important in holding the ark population, they are also very important in being that interface between these animals and the public.”

He said zoos helped people appreciate species which might not have an instant appeal to the masses, as they are not furry, and were using money from visitors and applying it “directly to try and give these creatures a happy ending”.

BIAZA’s top 10 reptiles and amphibians most reliant on zoos are:

:: Axolotl – a critically endangered amphibian that looks like a tadpole even as an adult and can regenerate limbs;

:: Golden mantella – a bright yellow frog that attracts a mate by clicking, not croaking, and will try to eat anything it can fit in its mouth;

:: Komodo dragon – the world’s largest living lizard with males growing up to 3 metres and females able to reproduce on their own if necessary;

:: Lemur leaf frog – a small frog which, at 3-4cm could fit on the end of a finger, has seen its range and population fall 80% in recent years;

:: Morelet’s leaf frog – a striking lime-green frog with a pink or orange underbelly and wide webbing between their toes which lets them parachute between trees;

:: Mountain chicken – one of the largest frogs in the world, which gets its name as it is commonly hunted for food;

:: Orange-tailed skink – a beautifully coloured and highly endangered skink which would be extinct without the help of zoos;

:: Ploughshare tortoise – one of the most sought after reptiles in the illegal pet trade and which can live up to 100 years;

:: Round Island boa – one of the few snakes that can change its colour;

:: Sand lizard – a rare and protected UK lizard species.


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