1. ITV Report

Chester Zoo successfully breeds one of world's rarest newts

Twelve Montseny newts have hatched at Chester Zoo Photo: Chester Zoo

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have successfully bred one of the world’s rarest amphibians in a bid to save it from extinction – the first time the feat has ever been achieved outside the species’ native Catalonia.

Twelve Montseny newts, one of the most endangered species in Europe, have hatched at the zoo where a team of experts are helping to ensure the continued survival of the critically endangered population – ahead of a future release into the Montseny mountain range in north-eastern Catalonia.

One of the newt eggs before hatching. Credit: Chester Zoo

The mountains, which are approximately 100km north of Barcelona, are the only place where wild Montseny newts live.

Dr Gerardo Garcia, the zoo’s Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, said:

The Montseny newt can only be found in a mountainous region not far from Barcelona and is, without doubt, one of the most endangered species in Europe. It is teetering perilously close to the brink of extinction and requires immediate action if we are to establish more numbers and save them.

“The newts are adapted to cold mountain streams and require pristine habitat but, sadly, they are affected by problems linked to climate change such as rising temperatures and decreasing water resources and human activities like deforestation.

“Thankfully, vital conservation work to protect the species’ habitat is now ongoing and a conservation breeding programme, which we’re now part of, is ensuring there’s a genetically viable population of newts that can be reintroduced to the wild.

“Growing up, I spent time in the mountain forests around Barcelona where the newts are found and so to now be part of the efforts to save them is a real honour. The mountains are where my journey as a conservation biologist began and so, many years on, for the team and I to be able to use our skills and expertise to help save a species that lives there is hugely important.”

– Dr Gerardo Garcia

Montseny newts are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Recent estimates indicate no more than 1,500 remain in an area less than eight km2.

They are one of the two most threatened amphibians in Europe together with the Karpathos frog (Pelophylax cerigensis), a frog endemic to the Greek island of Karpathos.

A newly hatched newt explores it's surroundings. Credit: Chester Zoo

Francesc Carbonell Buira, Biologist for the Government of Catalonia, added:

This is a species that had gone unnoticed by scientists until the late 1980s.

“A population disappeared late last century and, although some are currently stable, some are in a very unfavourable state of conservation. That’s why several administrations have come together to improve their conservation status – both through work in the wild and through a breeding programme.

“So far, over the 10 years it has been up-and-running, more than 2000 Montseny newts have been raised and four new populations created. Now Chester Zoo is on board, given its enormous experience in breeding threatened amphibian species, we hope the programme will go from strength-to-strength and that we can create a much brighter outlook for these wonderful animals.”

– Francesc Carbonell Buira, Biologist for the Government of Catalonia