Cotswold Wildlife Park is experiencing a baby boom of the cold blooded variety. The Reptile Section is awash with new births, including some of the smallest newborns in the entire collection. These include four Mangrove Snakes (bred for the first time at the Park), six Blood Pythons, three Crested Geckos, four Asian Giant Forest Scorpions and a multitude of Lyretail and Checkboard Cichlids.
Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park, Jamie Craig, said: “The Keepers at the Park are delighted with the boom in births and hatchings in the Reptile House – it is a real achievement to breed some of these species and a testament to the hard work and dedication of the Reptile Department in species that do not always get the same attention as the cute and cuddly!”
Three Crested Gecko babies hatched on 10th July (pictured top left and right). Geckos are one of the most diverse groups of Lizards on Earth and are an incredible example of animal engineering. The ribbed flesh on their toes enables them to scale vertical surfaces – even polished glass. Engineers with the US Department of Defence’s research project, DARPA, have been looking into creating ‘bio-inspired’ gloves for soldiers based on the Gecko’s ribbed toes. Earlier this month, a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physics unravelled some of the complexity of how Geckos can turn their superlative stickiness on and off. This new research is helping scientists to develop technology to enable robots to climb walls or grab onto objects*.
The new breeding pair of Mangrove Snakes have successfully produced young for the first time (one pictured left). Two yellow and black striped snakes hatched in June. These reptiles are brilliantly camouflaged in their brightly sunlit, leafy mangrove habitat, making them masters of disguise in the wild. The Park’s Blood Pythons also produced six young. The female coils around the clutch of eggs until they hatch. In the wild, the parents abandon the newborns as soon as they hatch, sometimes even earlier.
An unexpected birth came from a new species to the collection – the Asian Giant Forest Scorpion. Keepers were pleasantly suprised when the female produced young just weeks after arriving at the Park. The young are born one by one after hatching and expelling the embryonic membrane. The brood is carried about on the mother’s back until the young have undergone at least one moult. Before the first moult, scorplings cannot survive naturally without the mother, since they depend on her for protection and to regulate their moisture levels. The size of the litter depends on the species and environmental factors and can range from two to over a hundred scorplings. The average litter consists of around eight scorplings. Scorpions were amongst the first animals to adapt to life on land 420 million years ago and have been found in many fossil records from the Carboniferous Period.
Meanwhile, the Insect and Invertebrate House has seen multiple fish births of two species of Lake Tanganyika Cichlids. These Cichlids are found only in Lake Tanganyika, the second largest lake in the world. There are at least 250 species of Cichlid found in this lake and 98% are found nowhere else in the world. The Park’s Lyretail and Checkboard Cichlids have recently produced young. These fish are secretive shelter spawners. The fry are smaller than a grain of rice. The Lyretail Cichlid female typically lays between twenty and forty eggs but has been known to lay up to two hundred eggs. These eggs usually hatch in two or three days and the fry are free swimming in seven days. Both the parents and older juveniles will care for the young. The Cichlids have spawned several times this summer and visitors can see various different ages of fry in the Cichlid tank right next to the Red-Bellied Piranhas.
Cotswold Wildlife Park opens its doors at 10am every day (except Christmas Day), with last admission at 3.30pm (4.30pm in the summer months). Visit
www.cotswoldwildlifepark.com for further details.
*How Geckos Turn Their Stickiness On and Off (National Geographic News, August 2014).