Animal experts at Paignton Zoo have been trialling a new dietary supplement which could help save endangered species.

The Zoo is the first to test the DisiAq® reproductive activator on amphibians.

Dr. Amy Plowman, Director of Conservation, Research and Advocacy, said: “We tried DisiAq with four species of frog at Paignton Zoo. None had bred before, and they had been here for between 18 months and 2 years. Two of the species have now bred.”

The supplement was dissolved in water and misted onto the frogs in their rainforest vivaria. Sceptical keepers were surprised to hear mating calls soon afterwards. Amy added: “There are so many unknown factors in the breeding of amphibians – temperature, humidity, light, diet. Species need to be kept in the right environment and cared for in the right way – but this could be another weapon in our fight against extinction.”

DisiAq was trialled with the splendid mantella (Mantella pulchra) and the brown mantella (Mantella ebenaui) which both went on to breed, as well as with the Madagascan mantella (Mantella madagascariensis) and the central bright eyed frog (Boophis rappiodes). The brown mantella is not widely kept and the breeding is believed to be the first in a zoo anywhere in the world.

Mike Bungard, Curator of Lower Vertebrates and Invertebrates, said: “If DisiAq genuinely helps breeding, then it could have huge implications for highly threatened species. So many amphibians face imminent extinction in the wild because of things like the chytrid fungus, which is sweeping the world. More work is needed, but this could be highly beneficial for emergency cases.”

Misting DisiAq onto the frogs at Paignton Zoo takes advantage of the permeability of amphibian skin. The product can also be added to drinking water or the water in which fish and other aquatic species live, and to food.

Dr. John Hart leads the UK scientists responsible for DisiAq: “We hit on the product serendipitously and are especially grateful to Paignton Zoo for helping us perfect the use of what is a highly complex formulation. Our success rate is going up all the time, with DisiAq causing creatures that breed easily (e.g. guppies, angel fish, water snails) to breed more and assisting in cases where breeding in captivity is far harder (e.g. tiger stingrays and Paignton’s Malagasy frogs). DisiAq has yet to be tested in mammals.”

“For fun among ourselves we have nicknamed DisiAq the Love Bomb, but it’s mild, slow-acting and benign, so not really bomb-like at all. We are looking into the mechanism of action, suspecting an exotic superfood effect.”

“With the help of Paignton Zoo we are trying to make every season a breeding season. Animals won’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day any longer!”

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