ZSL London Zoo has bred the critically endangered Lake Oku clawed frog in captivity for the first time. Thirteen tadpoles were hatched at the zoo with four of these metamorphosing into juvenile frogs already.
Lake Oku clawed frogs are found in a single high altitude freshwater lake in Western Cameroon, Africa. During their evolution they have developed extra chromosomes making them one of the most genetically unusual creatures in the world.
Ben Tapley, head of the reptile and amphibian team at ZSL London Zoo said, “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 into Lake Oku.”
ZSL’s EDGE List (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) ranks them at number 35 due to their unique evolutions and perilous conservation status.
“We are absolutely delighted to be the first zoo in the world to have successfully bred the Lake Oku Clawed frog,” added Tapley.
ZSL keepers worked tirelessly to ensure that the precise conditions that these precious amphibians need to thrive. Tapley explained that, “We worked closely with field biologists to obtain very precise environmental date from Lake Oku which we replicated in our facilities here at ZSL London Zoo.
During the breeding cycle of these frogs zoo keepers made new behavioural observations of these frogs that had never been seen in zoos or the wild before. This has helped zookeepers expand their understanding of the adult frogs and their tadpoles.
“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,” said Tapley.
“It’s a phenomenal achievement for the survival of this species.”
Photo Credit: ZSL London Zoo/ Ben Tapley