Saving a species on the critical list

Conservationists at Chester Zoo have successfully bred one of the world’s rarest amphibians in a bid to save it from extinction.

In a first outside of the species’ native Catalonia, twelve pairs of the critically endangered Montseny brook newt (Calotriton arnoldi) have been successfully hatched at the zoo by a team of experts using a special purpose-built breeding facility. The programme aims to ensure the species’ continued survival, and young hatched within the zoo will be introduced back to the Montseny mountain range in north-eastern Catalonia to help boost numbers.

The zoo is renowned for its conservation work with threatened reptiles and amphibians. In joining with Barcelona Provincial Council, the Catalan government’s Department of Territory and Sustainability and Barcelona Zoo, it has become the first institution outside of Catalonia to assist with the recovery plan.

Montseny newts are one of the most endangered species in Europe, with recent estimates indicating less than 1500 individuals remaining in the wild in an area of 8 sq km (3 sq miles) with numbers dwindling by 15% over the last 10 years. As a result, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as “critically endangered”. As a strictly aquatic species, preferring cold, fast flowing rivers, the drying out of mountain streams, human alteration of its habitat and global warming all pose serious threats to its survival.

Working to improve the newts’ habitat in preparation for their eventually reintroduction, including improving the water quality and ecological flow of the streams it lives in, is also part of Chester’s vital conservation work.