Talking English.. with animals

IMG_4654Whereas over the past month I have been brushing up on my Spanish, since arriving back from Costa Rica to work this week and facing a busy teaching schedule, it seems I’m now losing my voice, in whichever language is spoken!

Both Adam and I have had an incredibly busy but highly productive week, and its been a great pleasure for us both to engage with the various groups, from toddlers in our baby explorers and pupils from various schools in our Habitat Explorers, to groups of adults from our local community.

One such session that Adam delivered this week, Talk English, supported a project to help people to learn to speak English.  Up to 200 different languages are spoken in Manchester, which has a population of just under 500,000. Some people cannot not speak English well or even at all, so this project being led by our City Council aims to support them especially.

We got some fabulous feedback on Adam’s superb presentation:  “Your calm, informative explanation helped us to understand the animals better and placate any fears that we had, particularly regarding the snake. We finished the tour in the Vivarium and all but one of the learners remained behind saying they wanted to have more time to look at the animals and stated they would be bringing their children to visit in the summer holidays. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion for the animals! “Best wishes, Mazamil.

IMG_4648aWe also got some great feedback from schools visits, including Trinity & St Micheals Primary School from Croston in Lancashire. Their pupils were so inspired that several have featured the visits on their own brilliant blogs!  –  which you can find and follow below.

Adam and I would like to thank all our group visitors this week, and are thrilled to know that the sessions we are providing are being so well received.

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The Toad that broke the mould..

Costa Rican Endemic Toad, Incilius chompipe (c) Andrew R. Gray

Endemic Costa Rican Toad, Incilius chompipe (c) Andrew R. Gray

Once in a blue moon something comes along to change our way of thinking. Currently I am still in Costa Rica – it seems apt, as a research paper about a rare amphibian here has just been published.

We all know that toads from Central America lay their eggs in strings, in water, as is a typical characteristic of the group. Well Adam and I have been working with a very unusual high altitude species of toad that lives in the volcanic mountains of Costa Rica. Researching the breeding biology of this rare species for the first time in the world, we have bred the species in captivity in The Vivarium, and as a result have been able to highlight a remarkable new reproduction mode in Central American toads….

I. chompipe within the egg (c) Andrew R. Gray

I. chompipe within the egg (c) Andrew R. Gray

Incilius chompipe toads don’t follow the rule – their tadpoles and young fully develop in single eggs laid out of water, before hatching as full formed little miniatures of the adults!

This finding represents the first confirmation of direct development within the egg for any toad throughout the whole of Mesoamerica. Its significance within the field of neotropical herpetology is far reaching and we are both very pleased to be able to share it with you..

Gray, A. R, and Bland A. W, Notes on the reproduction of the endemic Costa Rican Toad, Incilius chompipe (Anura; Bufonidae). Mesoamerican Herpetology. June 2016, Volume 3, Number 2.