Zoo owner leaps at the chance to give safe home to endangered river frog

PUBLISHED: 14:29 22 July 2014 | UPDATED: 14:29 22 July 2014

Benji Cabbell-Manners, new owner of Amazona Zoo, Cromer.

Benji Cabbell-Manners, new owner of Amazona Zoo, Cromer. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

South American river frogs may soon be seeking refuge in north Norfolk as their native home becomes ever more dangerous.

The Lake Titicaca River Frog. Picture: SUBMITTED The Lake Titicaca River Frog. Picture: SUBMITTED

Not only have frogspawn-eating trout been introduced to Lake Titicaca, in the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru, but native people turn them into frog “shakes” and soups, believing they can treat conditions ranging from headaches to epilepsy.

As a result, populations have dropped by more than 80p per cent.

But Cromer’s Amazona Zoo, home to a wide range of animals from tropical South America, is sponsoring a German project looking at the frogs’ plight, and the zoo is hoping to offer some a home, to help save the species from extinction.

Benjie Cabbell-Manners, who bought the zoo last November, visited Peru with his wife Dido and friends in May to understand more about his zoo, and was stunned by the Amazon, rainforest, and Lake Titicaca.

He said they would now be dividing their sponsorship between the frog study and a British and Irish zoos’ project to buy and conserve rainforest which would help safeguard a far greater number of species.

Efforts by local people to look after their natural heritage impressed him, including one huge farm which had been allowed to revert to rainforest.

Mr Cabbell-Manners, 59, has come home with fresh ideas, including introducing a guinea-pig village, and allowing more birds and animals, such as mara and pecari, to roam freely in the zoo.

“It made me realise how important little zoos like these are,” said Mr Cabbell-Manners.

“We have big cats here which should be in Peru, but they are really under pressure there. And we have tapirs which take such a long time to breed.

“The trip made me realise how delicate these eco-systems are and how we can help.”

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