28/06/2018

Barcelona Zoo opens its new enclosure for the conservation of the Montseny brook newt

The opening of the new enclosure is a boost for the project started by Barcelona Zoo to encourage the newts to reproduce

Barcelona Zoo has now opened a new enclosure for the Montseny brook newt, a species endemic to Catalonia which is critically endangered. The opening of the new enclosure is a boost for the project started by Barcelona Zoo to encourage the newts to reproduce, which has been underway since 2012. The opening was attended by Frederic Ximeno, Ecology Commissioner of Barcelona City Council; Marta Labata, Managing Director of B:SM; Antoni Alarcón, Director of Barcelona Zoo; Manel Pomarol, Head of Wildlife Conservation of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia; Joana Barber, Director of the Montseny nature reserve and Gabriel Esquius, Chairman of Forestal Catalana.

An educational room dedicated to environmental awareness has also been unveiled, where visitors can learn about the importance of the newt and the fauna found in the mountain waterfalls of Montseny in general, via information panels, videos, computer games and other interactive material. The enclosure serves as a model to be followed under Barcelona Zoo’s new Strategic Plan, since it is designed around the integrated coordination of ex situ conservation, acclimatisation and breeding, and in situ reintroduction of the species to its natural environment.
 
Since the beginning of the breeding season in May, 38 newt larvae have been born at the Zoo, added to the 11 born last year, and they are expected to continue being born until the end of September. The purpose of the conservation programme is to reintroduce these larvae to their own habitat, and to reinforce the populations previously reintroduced in recent years; this has been confirmed as successful with the finding of the first larva born in the wild to those newts already reintroduced.

LIFE Project for the conservation of the Montseny brook newt

The Montseny brook newt (Calotriton arnoldi) conservation project, started by the Barcelona Provincial Council, together with Barcelona Zoo, the Autonomous Government of Catalonia, Girona Provincial Council and Forestal Catalana, was chosen as a LIFE Project by the European Union. The Montseny brook newt conservation programme has a total budget of €2,971,276, 60% of which is contributed by the European Union’s LIFE Project. Therefore, work to promote improvements to the state of conservation of this species will take place in the coming years, until 2020.

Some of this work will include, among other things, reducing the identified threats to the Montseny brook newt, improving the state of the water in the waterfalls of the Montseny nature reserve, extending the area inhabited by the species through the reintroduction of young bred in captivity, ensure their genetic variability and raise awareness about the importance of this species.

Critically endangered

The first populations of this animal were discovered in 1979 and were thought to be Pyrenean newts. Later, in 2005, morphological studies concluded that it was its own separate species, the Montseny brook newt, with two subspecies, the eastern and western. It is the only endemic vertebrate in Catalonia.

In recent years, the endemic newt population has decreased by 15%, becoming the most threatened amphibian in Western Europe and appearing as critically endangered on the  IUCN red list of threatened species. The survival of this species is linked intimately to the conservation of aquatic environments, but also of the forested areas that surround them.
 
Torreferrussa and Pont de Suert, specialist centres

A conservation programme was started immediately by Barcelona Provincial Council and the Autonomous Government of Catalonia to ensure the species’ survival, and in 2007 a pilot programme of breeding in captivity was begun at the Torreferrussa Wildlife Recovery Centre, which was added to four years ago by Barcelona Zoo and the Pont de Suert Wildlife Centre, in order to increase the future possibilities for the species in the event of a critical situation.

In particular, this June, the Torreferrussa Wildlife Centre has tripled the capacity of its enclosures for the breeding in captivity of the Montseny brook newt, with a total of 340 aquariums, to multiply the reproduction of the almost 900 newts that live there. In April of last year, the centre gave 24 newts to Chester Zoo, one of the most prestigious amphibian recovery centres.

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