04 03/04/2018

Rare baby ‘forest dragons’ hatch at Chester Zoo

A clutch of rare baby ‘forest dragons’ have hatched at Chester Zoo – helping to uncover more about one of the world’s least understood reptiles.

  • FOUR Bell’s anglehead lizards emerge from eggs
  • Threatened species, also known as the Borneo forest dragon, is something of a mystery to reptile experts
  • Conservationists are unsure how many remain
  • Zoo experts are beginning to unearth hidden secrets of the lizard’s breeding habits

Reptile keeper Nathan Wright holds a rare Bell’s anglehead lizard at Chester Zoo

The Bell’s anglehead lizard, also known as the Borneo forest dragon, is found in parts of South East Asia but reptile experts at the zoo say little is otherwise known about the mysterious creatures.

Population estimates on the species have never been carried out meaning no one is aware of how many exist in the wild or how just threatened they might be.

But now, the emergence of four tiny lizards at the zoo is helping reptile conservationists discover some of the secrets about how they live.

Matt Cook, Lead Keeper of reptiles at the zoo, said:

The Bell’s anglehead lizard is an elusive a little-understood species. Reliable information about them is incredibly scarce, so much so that even to reptile experts they are somewhat of a mystery.

“What we do know is that, as their name suggests, these forest dragons live in forests in South East Asia. This is habitat which, across the region, is being completely decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing all manner of species, big and small, to the very edge of existence.

“Breeding these rare lizards at the zoo allows us to increase our knowledge of the species. For example, we’ve already discovered that their incubation period is between 151 and 155 days; that they reach sexual maturity at around three-years-old and that the females deposit up to four eggs per clutch in a small burrow in deep soil.

The recently hatched youngsters are currently being cared for in a special behind-the-scenes rearing facility at the zoo but visitors can see their parents in its Realm of the Red Ape habitat.