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Zoo’s poison frog world first

Posted: 8th June, 2017

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park has become the first zoological collection in the world to breed an endangered Peruvian frog.

Staff have successfully bred the Summers' poison frog (Ranitomeya summersi) in a zoo for the first time. This species was only described in 2008, when it was separated from the red headed poison frog (Ranitomeya fantastica) and identified as a separate species.

This striking frog is known in only a few locations in central Peru. It is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List because of its restricted range, the high level of habitat loss and illegal smuggling for the pet trade.

The natural history of this beautiful frog is interesting but poorly understood: it’s thought that it lives and breeds in much drier habitats than similar frogs. It lays its eggs in tropical flowering Dieffenbachia plants and in holes in trees.

Lower Vertebrate & Invertebrate keeper Dr Katy Upton said: “According to the global computer database for zoo records, we are the first collection to successfully breed this species. This may be because of the recent taxonomic change of this species, but we are proud to have the Summers' poison frog here and excited to be able to display this incredible frog to our visitors.”

Katy went onto explain: “Paignton Zoo has a state-of-the-art amphibian facility that was purpose-built to provide space to keep species such as this so that we can research and breed them. To do this the team has created complex environments that replicate the needs of these animals and helps provide them with optimum conditions for breeding.”

Experts created microhabitats that maintained the ideal temperature, UV levels, rainfall and humidity in order to encourage breeding. They also provided suitable sites for eggs and tadpoles, so the frogs could display natural behaviours and care for their young as they would in the wild.

Katy again: “We have four other species from the same genus (Ranitomeya) in the collection which we are hoping to breed in the near future. Then we can share with other collections so they can work with this amazing dart frog, too.”

Curator of Lower Vertebrate & Invertebrates Luke Harding explained: “The breeding of this species here at Paignton Zoo is very exciting for us. We hope to be able to study the reproductive biology of this frog and research its behavioural ecology so that we can inform future conservation efforts and help preserve its habitat.”

Fittingly, it comes in the year when the Zoo’s events theme is cold blooded creatures.

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