New arrivals in Bristol Zoo’s Reptile House

A Rhinocerous Iguana
Andy Carbin, Bristol Zoo Gardens

Bristol Zoo Gardens is re-opening its Reptile House after extensive improvements – with plenty of new arrivals making their first appearance. The house has been closed while a new, high-tech, thermostatically-controlled heating system was installed, but there has been plenty of activity behind closed doors, with the birth of 17 rhinocerous iguanas, 13 amethystine pythons, two green tree monitors, and the arrival of six critically endangered Egyptian tortoises after being rescued by customs officials, and six Annam leaf turtles from Chester Zoo.

Tim Skelton, Bristol Zoo’s Curator of reptiles and amphibians, said: “It has been a busy few months for us in the Reptile House and we are thrilled with all these newcomers. We are particularly pleased to have received six critically endangered Annam leaf turtles from Chester Zoo. They are still very tiny — a little bigger than a 50p coin — so will not be ready to breed for a few years, but their arrival is a great investment in the future of this highly vulnerable species.”

“It is also great to be involved in the re-homing of six critically endangered Egyptian tortoises which will be a part of a brand new studbook. They were among over 100 tortoises confiscated by customs and excise after being caught in Libya, most likely destined for the pet trade.”

Exact information about the tortoises, such as their age, is not known — they could be anywhere between five and 50-years-old — but the three males and three females will be paired up for breeding to help boost the captive population of this highly endangered species.

Tim added: “The hatching of 17 rhinoceros iguanas is also excellent as it is the first time we have bred this species at Bristol Zoo and they are classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.”

The upgraded heating system will give keepers much greater control over the temperatures in the house, allowing them to create excellent conditions for the animals. Tim added: “The new heating system means we can expect more successful breeding of endangered species in the coming months and years.”

Bristol Zoo Gardens is an Education and Conservation Charity and relies on the income from visitors to support its work. The Zoo is involved with over one hundred co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species. It employs 140 full and part-time staff to care for the animals and runs a successful visitor attraction to support its conservation and education work. Bristol Zoo Gardens supports — through finance and skill sharing — more than 10 projects in the UK and abroad that conserve and protect some of the world’s most endangered species. Bristol Zoo Gardens is a member of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums. BIAZA represents more than 90 member collections and promotes the values of good zoos and aquariums.