Critically Endangered Lake Oku Clawed Frog Bred At ZSL’s London Zoo In The UK

April 15, 2015

The Lake Oku clawed frog  (Xenopus longipes) of Cameroon has been successfully bred in captivity for the first time at the ZSL London Zoo in the United Kingdom, raising hopes that the frog, which lives in just a single location in Cameroon will better survive in the future. The frog, ranked number 35 ZSL’s EDGE List (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) is also on the IUCN Red List for endangered species, and is also unique in that it has developed extra chromosomes during the course of its evolution.

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The reptile and amphibian team at the zoo spent several years studying the habitat at Lake Oku and used the knowledge gleaned during the course of their study to replicate as much as possible the conditions from the lake at the ZSL London Zoo. It appears to have paid off so far as four of the 13 tadpoles hatched at the zoo have metamorphosed into froglets, and the herpetologists have been able to observe behaviors in the frogs and the tadpoles that have not yet been recorded for the scientific record. 

“These Critically Endangered amphibians represent a unique branch of the evolutionary tree of life. Due to their restriction in the wild to just a single and relatively small site, they’re incredibly vulnerable to threats of invasive species or disease, which would be catastrophic if introduced to Lake Oku,” said Ben Tapley, head of the reptile and amphibian team at ZSL London Zoo.

“We worked closely with field biologists to obtain very precise environmental data from Lake Oku which we replicated in our facilities here at ZSL London Zoo. We will now be able to share our insights gleaned from naturally breeding these frogs with conservation biologists working with the species in Cameroon and zoos around the world to help ensure a sustainable population can be maintained. It’s a phenomenal achievement for the survival of this species.”

John B. Virata keeps a western hognose snake, a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 


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