A critically endangered species of frog has been bred in a UK zoo for the first time.  

The Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) amphibian keepers are the first in the world to have bred Lake Oku clawed frogs (Xenopus longipes), marking a pivotal step in ensuring the survival of the species.  

Classed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List, Lake Oku frogs are ranked as number 35 on ZSL’s EDGE List (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) due to their perilous conservation status and unique evolutionary history.  

Native only to Lake Oku, a high-altitude freshwater lake in western Cameroon, Africa, the species is one of the most genetically unusual creatures, having developed extra chromosomes in its evolution.  

Four of ZSL London Zoo’s 13 tadpoles have developed into juvenile frogs, and ZSL’s team of zookeepers have been working tirelessly to ensure optimum conditions are maintained.    

Ben Tapley, head of the reptile and amphibian team at ZSL, 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 to Lake Oku.  

“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.”  

The Lake Oku clawed frogs can be seen at the amphibian and reptile house at ZSL London Zoo.  

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