Seven rare electric blue geckos have been re-homed at Bristol Zoo Gardens after being confiscated by customs officials at Heathrow airport.
The geckos are a critically endangered species and were being smuggled into the country from Tanzania, believed to be destined for the pet trade.
There were around 165 of these geckos along with a smaller number of another (less endangered) Tanzanian gecko and some other herp and invert species back in March.
Bristol Zoo’s curator of reptiles and amphibians, Tim Skelton, heard about the confiscation and got in touch with CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to find new homes for all 165 geckos. He also set up a new breeding programme for the species to formally monitor and safeguard population numbers in captivity in the UK.
He explains: “Species such as electric blue geckos are really very rare and in real danger of becoming extinct. The striking blue colour of the males is what makes them so appealing as pets. However, illegally capturing them from the wild, for sale into the pet trade, does huge damage to the population numbers for the species.”
The geckos are now on show in the Zoo’s Reptile House. Tim added: “We have taken in three breeding pairs of the geckos and are happy to report that our vets have given them a clean bill of health following their long journey. We hope the pairs will breed in future and we can help boost the captive population of this critically endangered species.”
The electric blue gecko population is declining in the wild due to illegal collection for the pet trade as well as habitat loss. The geckos are only found in 8 km² (3 sq miles) of the Kimboza Forest in eastern Tanzania. As a result, it is now classified as a critically endangered species, making it increasingly important to maintain a population in human care.
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