Bristol Zoo Gardens has a colony of endangered Chinese crocodile lizards for the first time in its 181 year history.
There are fewer than 1,000 of these lizards left in the wild in their native Southern China so the breeding programme in zoos is crucial to the species’ survival.
Adam Davis, senior keeper at Bristol Zoo, said their numbers had been hit by people seizing them for the illegal pet trade and for use in making traditional medicine.
He said the lizards had also been affected by the destruction of their natural habitat.
Since 2014 the species has been listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
But Adam said once the lizards had settled at Bristol Zoo it was hoped they would breed.
He said: “We have never had them here before. They are distinctive because of the crocodilian like scales on their backs and their crocodile-like tails.
“They are locally called the ‘lizard of great sleepiness’ because they will often sit completely motionless for hours at a time”
The five Chinese crocodile lizards are seven years old and eat a diet of worms and other invertebrates. When fully grown they can reach up to 40 cms (16 ins) long.
Adam said: “They are semi-aquatic, but also great climbers, often found resting on branches and foliage overhanging water.
“Their defence is to stay still for as long as possible but if they really feel threatened they drop off the branch and into the water and swim away.”
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo, but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.