04/12/2019

First for Bristol Zoo as endangered lizards hatch

​An endangered species of lizard has been bred in a UK first here at the Zoo.

Two blue-spotted tree monitor lizards have hatched in our reptile house and have today gone on display for the first time.

This is really significant because in the wild these amazingly coloured creatures are classified as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. There are just 70 of them in captivity across the world.

The tiny bright blue-spotted lizards hatched from their 5cm long eggs, which had been kept in an incubator at the Zoo for the past five months at a constant 31°C.

Curator of reptiles and amphibians, Tim Skelton, said: “This is a real first as no other zoo in the UK has managed to breed blue-spotted tree monitor lizards.”

The blue-spotted tree monitor lizards are part of a European breeding programme overseen by Bristol Zoo’s senior reptile keeper, Adam Davis.

He said: “The programme is vital to their survival, so every single one of them is extremely important.

 “So little is known about these animals in the wild - their natural history is still largely a mystery. The breeding programme aims to ensure a healthy population in European zoos and to do everything we can to better understand this species.”

The baby lizards weighed just 13 grams at hatching and are currently just 27cm long, but two thirds of that is their tails.

When they are fully grown they will measure 1.1 metres (3.5 feet) from the tip of their noses to the end of their tails.

But it will probably be 18 months until keepers can be certain whether they are boys or girls.

Adam said everyone in the reptiles’ team at the Zoo and the volunteers who support their work had been involved in looking after the lizards’ parents and overseeing the incubation of their eggs.

“They are such striking, eye-catching animals and these hatchlings are really active so it will be great for visitors to watch and learn about them.”

The newly-hatched lizards can be seen in our reptile house.

Blue-spotted tree monitors were only discovered in 2001 in tropical forests on the island of Batanta off the coast of Indonesia which is roughly the size of Merseyside.

But by 2017 they were already listed as Endangered. They are at risk largely because many are taken for the international pet trade.

Adam said: “We hope now that having bred two we can go on to breed more and help sustain the population of blue-spotted tree monitor lizards into the future.”

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