Masters of Disguise: Revealed!

Meet our camouflage superstars!

Have you ever done the ‘Bristol Zoo groove’? The one where you shuffle around in front of an exhibit, standing on tiptoe, bending from side to side, peering around branches as you try to spot that elusive animal … only to discover it was right in front of you all the time?

Bristol Zoo is home to several amazing ‘Masters of Disguise’ – experts in camouflage, so well adapted to their surroundings that they vanish even without an Invisibility Cloak. (No hard feelings Harry.)

Here’s our handy guide to our camouflage superstars, so you can spot them next time you visit! 

Giant leaf insect

The clue’s in the name! This amazing creature from Malaysia looks exactly like a ragged leaf, right down to the brown markings mimicking ‘dead’ patches around its edges. 

Giant leaf insects are active at night chomping away on greenery, but during the day they just hang around on their favourite plants, blending in perfectly. In fact, their camouflage is so incredible that other leaf insects sometimes mistake them for the real thing and have a cheeky nibble! Luckily this doesn’t hurt them, as their nerve endings don’t reach the edges of their bodies. 

And their powers of camouflage don’t stop there. Leaf insects’ thin, papery bodies even sound like rustling leaves when touched, and if another animal disturbs them, they shudder and sway like leaves moving gently in the breeze instead of scuttling away.

Henkel’s leaf-tailed gecko

Conservation status: Vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching for the pet trade

This Madagascan lizard is a pro at hiding in plain sight thanks to its brown, mottled skin and flat tail which can curl up to look like a dead leaf. 

A nocturnal animal, by day the leaf-tailed gecko will find an upright branch and flatten itself against the bark, clinging on with the help of its amazingly “sticky” feet (in fact each toe is covered with thousands of microscopic hairs which create an electromagnetic attraction to the surface they’re touching!) 

It even has camouflaged brown eyes and a delicate ‘fringe’ all the way around its head, body and limbs to soften its outline, helping it blend in against the bark. 

And it can change colour! While the leaf-tailed gecko may not have the skill of a chameleon, it can turn darker and lighter when needed, and make the mottled pattern on its body more or less obvious.


Mossy frog

Conservation status: Endangered due to habitat loss

Imagine this little amphibian perched, still and silent, on a patch of moss. You’d definitely have to look twice to spot it … or maybe three or four times! 

Also known as the Chapa bug-eyed frog, the mossy frog comes from Vietnam where it lives in flooded caves and the banks of mountain streams. Its bobbly green and brown skin perfectly mimics its damp, mossy home, and when frightened it will fold into a ball and play dead, making it look even more like a clump of moss. 

Bristol Zoo was the first zoo in the UK to breed these endangered frogs, and in our opinion they’re one of our toughest animals to spot. Keep your eyes peeled next time you’re in the Reptile House – they’re worth it! 

Malaysian leaf katydid

Is that a plump, shiny leaf? Nope – it’s another amazing insect, the katydid (pronounced kay-tee-did). The curved brown markings on the katydid’s body look like bite marks left by hungry insects, and the sharp spines on its legs could easily be mistaken for thorny twigs. (Great for self-defence, too!) 

Katydids also have a really clever way of hiding their eggs from predators. The female finds a thick leaf and opens up the edge with her mouth, peeling apart the layers, before twisting around and laying her eggs into the gap. 

The eggs stay safely tucked away inside the leaf until the tiny nymphs hatch. The nymphs start out looking like spiders (another clever disguise) until they develop into their adult form in a spectacular transformation!

Ready to track down our camouflage stars? You can visit the Zoo for less this winter with our super saver tickets, available until 14 February. Prices start at just £8.17 when you book online a day or more in advance!*

Book your adventure here.

*T&Cs apply

Pre-book and pre-purchase your timed tickets

Book Now

Pre-book and pre-purchase your timed tickets