Exotic reptiles rescued after oil spill breed successfully at Zoo

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Matt Goetz said the animals were brought to Jersey in order to save their genetic make-up and that he was ‘totally happy’ with the progress made in breeding the species.

The Bojer’s skink, the Bouton’s skink and the night gecko were rescued from the south-east islands off Mauritius after a Japanese carrier – MV Wakashio – spilled oil into the ocean on 25 July last year in an event which threatened to push the reptiles towards extinction.

A team of herpetologists at Durrell, who worked in conjunction with conservation groups in Mauritius, travelled to the islands to rescue the species during the pandemic and brought them back to Jersey.

The team had to wear gas masks when rescuing the creatures due to the toxicity of the oil fumes which had contaminated the area.

Thirty Bojer’s skinks, 30 night geckos and six Bouton’s skinks were transported to the Island. Among each group of 30 were 15 of each gender to allow for maximum breeding opportunities.

The Bojer’s skinks, which lay two eggs at a time, have produced 52 offspring in eight months and the night geckos have produced 26 young, with a further 23 currently being incubated.

Mr Goetz said his team was using the opportunity to learn more about the Bouton’s skink before breeding the species as well.

He added: ‘The reptiles are doing really well and at this stage we now have a genetic backup of the originally imported animal. Each couple now has a child which is key, as we do not know the age of the adults.

‘We want the species to be living in the long-term – we want to be able to restore them to Mauritius for long-term adaptability. It would be ideal to restore them to the south-east islands and we could also look at mixing them with the genes from the species that are in the northern islands too.’

Mr Goetz and his team are also in the process of producing a stud book for the reptiles which allows them to pair the right individuals to retain the genetic make-up in the species.

‘We want to move the animals back to their habitats, but first we need to monitor and test the islands for oil residue and see how this changes over time, as we are not going to put the species back if they are at risk. This could take months or years but we do hope to move the animals back there,’ he said.

‘I am really proud of the team who have worked so hard to rescue them while dealing with the complications of the pandemic.’

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