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Rare ‘Forest Dragons’ Hatch at Chester Zoo

1_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo. Pictured with zookeeper Nathan Wright (1) CROP

A clutch of rare baby ‘Forest Dragons’ have hatched at Chester Zoo.

The Bell’s Anglehead Lizard (Gonocephalus bellii), also known as the Borneo Forest Dragon, is found in parts of South East Asia. Reptile experts at Chester Zoo say very little is known about the mysterious reptile. Population estimates on the species have never been carried out; therefore, no one is aware of exactly how many exist in the wild or how threatened they might be.

However, the emergence of the four tiny lizards at the Zoo is helping reptile conservationists discover some of the secrets about how they live.

2_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo. Pictured with zookeeper Nathan Wright (3) (1)

4_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo (2)

5_Rare baby forest dragons hatch at Chester Zoo (1)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo (Image 1,2: "Reptile keeper Nathan Wright holds rare lizard at Chester Zoo / Image 5: Adult Bell's Anglehead Lizard)

Matt Cook, Lead Keeper of Reptiles at Chester Zoo, said, "The Bell’s Anglehead Lizard is an elusive a little-understood species. Reliable information about them is incredibly scarce, so much so that even to reptile experts they are somewhat of a mystery.”

“What we do know is that, as their name suggests, these ‘forest dragons’ live in forests in South East Asia. This is habitat which, across the region, is being completely decimated to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations – a threat which is pushing all manner of species, big and small, to the very edge of existence.”

Matt continued, “Breeding these rare lizards at the Zoo allows us to increase our knowledge of the species. For example, we’ve already discovered that their incubation period is between 151 and 155 days; that they reach sexual maturity at around three-years-old and that the females deposit up to four eggs per clutch in a small burrow in deep soil.”

The recently hatched youngsters are currently being cared for in a special behind-the-scenes rearing facility at the Zoo, but visitors can see their parents in its Realm of the Red Ape habitat.

6_Adult Bell's angle-headed lizard at Chester Zoo