Marwell Zoo welcomes painted dragon hatchlings

Marwell Zoo has welcomed five starred agama hatchlings.

The painted dragon babies have joined their parents in the Arid Lands exhibit. In the wild, starred agama, which is part of the lizard family, can be found in Egypt and the Near and Middle East.

They can tolerate extremely hot weather but also experience cold winters in their range. Marwell's starred agama also go through this natural cooling period and afterwards, the adults tend to mate in early March.

Dan Garrick, Marwell's Lead keeper for Herptiles, said: "We suspect the female laid the eggs around mid-April. She was showing signs of being gravid (carrying eggs) and looking to nest somewhere... Whilst the parents do not exhibit any direct parental care, like feeding the young, they will tolerate the juveniles until they start to show signs of sexual maturity. This could be as soon as one year of age.

"The juveniles are predominantly insectivorous. At Marwell, they are being fed pea aphids, fruit flies, tropical woodlice, small crickets, and similar."

For the first time, Marwell keepers intend to raise the new hatchlings in the same enclosure as their parents.

Dan added: "We have not reared the young with the adults before so it will be interesting to observe the behaviours in the group."

Starred agamas are listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN red list but populations in Egypt have recently been declining.