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UK first for Paignton Zoo and Chinese crocodile lizard

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon has become the first member of BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos) to have successfully bred a Chinese crocodile lizard.

This small, semiaquatic lizard is found only in the provinces of southern China and northern Vietnam and is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List due to severe population declines and habitat threats.

The Chinese crocodile lizard has bony scales down its back and a muscular tail that resembles that of a crocodile, spending much of its time in shallow water hunting for insects, snails, tadpoles, and worms.

Luke Harding, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates at Paignton Zoo,  attributes this recent breeding success to his team having a full understanding of this particular lizard.

“This is a species that many other collections in the UK keep and work with. For us to successfully cycle and breed them is testimony to the progress of our department, the quality of our facilities and the expertise in our team!”

“Individuals went through a cool period when we kept them below 20 degrees and were then paired up for breeding at temperatures of on average 25 degrees.

“They bred in a semi-aquatic set up with a planted land area and branches and cork bark above the water for basking. An automated misting system was installed after the cool period to spray the animals regularly throughout the day and increase humidity.

“We weigh them at least every three months to monitor their health and ensure they are a good weight before attempting to pair them. They eat mainly worms but also insects such as crickets. We feed them three times per week and often do it by hand using tongs so we can observe them eating.”

A 2008 survey estimated that fewer than one thousand Chinese crocodile lizards were left in China, with fewer than 150 adults in Vietnam.

Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a member of BIAZA ( British and Irish Association of Zoos; the professional zoo body representing top zoos and aquariums in the UK). For more information on visiting go to or ring 01803 697500.

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