Sunday 25 September 2016

Zoo creates artificial rain storms to help lemur leaf frog breed

Published 21/09/2016 | 13:46

A colour-changing lemur leaf frog (Paignton Zoo/PA)
A colour-changing lemur leaf frog (Paignton Zoo/PA)

Keepers have bred a critically endangered colour-changing frog by using artificial rain storms.

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It is the first time the lemur leaf frog, found mainly in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama, has been bred at Paignton Zoo in Devon.

A team from the zoo prepared a rain chamber using a water pump and timer system to make it rain every few hours during the day.

The rainfall and humidity helped replicate the kind of conditions the frogs would encounter at the start of the wet season, when they breed.

Andy Meek, a keeper from the zoo's lower vertebrates and invertebrates department, said: "We have a total of 18 tadpoles, a number of which have now become full froglets.

"We also have 10 adults. The species is critically endangered. There is a studbook currently being set up to manage this species in Europe.

"This is a first for Paignton Zoo, so I'm really pleased."

The zoo is one of only four collections in the UK working with the species.

Lemur leaf frogs are slender and lime green, with bulging eyes and no webbing on their hands or feet.

They are nocturnal tree frogs associated with sloping areas in humid lowland and forest.

The eggs are usually deposited on leaves, with the larvae either washing off or falling into water.

Lemur leaf frogs can change colour - they are light green during the day while resting and turn reddish-brown at night when active.

The species was once considered to be reasonably common in Costa Rica but most populations have now disappeared.

These declines are probably due to chytrid fungus, which causes death in amphibians around the world.

Press Association

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