Conservationists at family attraction, Dartmoor Zoo, have revealed that they have successfully bred the endangered yellow-headed day gecko in captivity following the hatching of a juvenile gecko on 25 June. The tiny baby is the first to hatch from a clutch of eggs produced by a carefully planned breeding programme which identified the valuable genetics of Dartmoor Zoo's three adult yellow-headed day geckos.
The 10-day old youngster is currently the size of an adult's fingertip and will be too small to sex until it is fully grown. Young geckos are fragile and can be vulnerable to disease so the new arrival will remain under the close supervision of Dartmoor Zoo keepers until it is strong enough to be introduced to zoo visitors. When it is ready to meet its public, the diminutive lizard will be named by the Zoo's visitors who have already chosen new names for Marvin the common marmoset and Midnight the axolotl in recent months. Zoo keepers hope that their success with the yellow-headed day gecko will lead to further conservation programmes with critically endangered reptile species including the Tanzanian electric blue gecko and golden mantella frogs.
Commenting on the breeding success, Dartmoor Zoo founder and CEO, Benjamin Mee, said: "Conservation is at the heart of everything we do at Dartmoor Zoo and our focus this year is endangered reptile and amphibian species. The focus of conservation activity often falls on large, popular species, such as our endangered Amur tigers, but species of every size are essential to maintaining biodiversity and we must never overlook the smaller creatures.
"The success of our gecko breeding programme is a testament to the skill, patience and dedication of our senior keeper, Justin Aird, and his lower vertebrates and invertebrates team in caring for our adult geckos and providing the optimum breeding conditions. Our keepers are experts in their field and are perfectly positioned to provide our youngster with the best possible care as it develops. Our next hope is to create a breeding programme for the electric blue gecko; a critically endangered species that is under serious threat from the exotic pet trade and habitat loss. In the meantime, our family of yellow-headed day geckos will help us to campaign against deforestation and educate local school and community groups about the importance of conservation."
The yellow-headed day gecko is endemic to Madagascar which is renowned for producing thousands of unique animal and plant species which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The pint-sized lizard is one of many species under threat from habitat loss as a result of deforestation.
Dartmoor Zoo was established in 2007 when Benjamin Mee and his family bought an ailing zoo. Since then Ben, his family and team have built the Zoo into the popular tourist attraction it is today. Ben wrote a book about his experience and in 2011 it was made into the Hollywood Film 'We Bought a Zoo' starring Matt Damon. In 2014 the Zoo became a charity, of which Ben is CEO. Today the Zoo is heavily involved in research, conservation and education projects to promote the welfare of animals and to enrich both the lives of humans and animals.