05:00PM, Thursday 26 March 2020
Spring has sprung at Berkshire College of Agriculture (BCA), with lambs and an army of critically endangered frogs thriving.
So far, 33 of the college’s resident ewes have given birth to 55 lambs, but with 256 pregnant ewes in the flock, there is still a long way to go.
As a result of coronavirus, students of agriculture and animal management are working remotely, so there are far fewer hands on deck than usual.
Head stockman Chris Beckwith said: “Despite everything that’s going on, farming will continue throughout this crisis.
“We’re a committed team and the welfare of our animals is our utmost priority.”
A little more exotic than the lambs are the Titicaca water frogs, which are native to South America.
They are naturally found in Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia, where they are under threat of over-harvesting by native people who believe they are an aphrodisiac and make them into smoothies.
The amphibians, which are thought to be the largest fully aquatic frog species in the world, joined BCA’s zoo last year from Denver Zoo in Colorado, America.
They were so comfortable in their new home they laid eggs soon after they arrived.
Calvin Allen, BCA zoo manager, said: “We were anticipating that this species was going to be quite challenging to keep and breed in captivity, but it turned out that their care requirements were relatively straightforward.”
The spawn the frogs laid developed over a number of days and eventually turned into tadpoles.
Calvin said: “The tadpoles developed quite quickly and it was really interesting for the students here to see the metamorphosis process from tadpole to frog.”
There is now a group of 15 Titicaca water ‘froglets’ flourishing at the zoo which will eventually be found new homes in wildlife reserves around Europe.
BCA Zoo supports conservation work taking place at the Centro K’ayra, an amphibian conservation centre in Bolivia where they are directly working with the Titicaca water frog in its natural habitat.
“We have plans to raise funds and awareness to support this important project which is leading the way in the preservation of this endangered frog species,” said Calvin.Find out more about BCA at www.bca.ac.uk
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