29 February 2024

Unveiling The Secret Life Easter 2024 Lineup 

Get to know the planet’s most mysterious creatures this Easter at the  Zoo, with a brand-new experience – the Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians.

Home to some of the planet’s most fascinating yet threatened species – including one of the world’s largest frogs, jewel-coloured geckos, and turtles with heads so big they cannot fit in their shells - Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians will introduce you to wondrously weird creatures.

A Chinese giant salamander at London Zoo
© Luke Capeling, ZSL Member

What to expect at a Secret Life 

Greeted by a beautiful wall-climbing gecko statue upon entering, visitors will first get a glimpse into our specialist breeding and animal care areas, with the ‘behind-the-scenes’ bought to the fore in the new space. As well as putting the zookeepers on show, Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians will showcase our global conservation efforts key species we care for - as part of ZSL, a science-driven conservation charity.

You will come nose-to-nose with one of the world’s largest and most threatened frogs – as the breeding group of Critically Endangered mountain chicken frogs at the Zoo will be visible for the first time. The enormous frogs were once widespread across the Caribbean until a killer fungus was introduced to their habitat. A mass mortality event in the early 2000s was discovered - by a team including a ZSL scientist - to have been caused by chytrid fungus, which wiped out more than 90% of their population.

Mountain chicken frog

In 2009, our conservationists along with other zoos airlifted the last few mountain chicken frogs to safety in a last-ditch attempt to save the species from extinction, a special unit was built and a breeding programme for the animals was established – but until now both the frogs and the incredible work being done behind the scenes to save them has been unseen by the conservation Zoo’s visitors.

Getting the chance to delve into our vast scientific research, visitors can try their hand at swabbing a frog to test for chytrid, with a replica lab kit outside the frogs’ home.

Secret Life of Reptiles and Amphibians has been meticulously designed to meet every need of its inhabitants – with each of its 33 species having individual, and very precise, requirements for temperature, humidity, water quality and lighting. The custom-built facility features 11 different climate-controlled zones, more than 50 aquatic systems, and the Zoo’s specialist horticulture team have carefully planted each habitat to provide shade, egg laying sites, basking locations and camouflage areas for the very particular residents.  

Philippine Crocodile

Our 1.9 metre long Philippine crocodile may be spotted basking on the banks of, or swimming in, its 30,000-litre pool, while young visitors can board a boat like the ones used by researchers to study the crocs in the wild. The army of mossy frogs will test even the most ardent of ‘Where’s Wally’?’ fans, as they demonstrate their unparalleled camouflage skills in their leafy home, in contrast to the turquoise gecko, who well and truly stands out from the crowd with its electric-blue skin.  

Mangshan pit viper close up

Stunning Mangshan vipers and a striking King Cobra have tree trunks to coil around and leaves to shelter beneath, while the big-headed turtles will be keeping an eye on it all – because as their name suggests, their shells provide no shelter for their supersized skulls.

A shadowy underwater home is hoped to provide the perfect love nest for the Zoo’s pair of Critically Endangered Chinese giant salamanders – the world’s largest amphibians, they are sometimes referred to as ‘living fossils’, as their evolutionary lineage diverged from all other amphibians around 160 million years ago. Largely solitary animals, an invisible divide will give the territorial animals the space they need, until they’re in the mood to get together. 

Animals at the Secret Life

  • Chinese giant salamander being held during a health check at London Zoo
    Andrias davidianus

    Chinese giant salamander

    Chinese giant salamanders are the world's biggest amphibian, at full size they are around the size of a fully grown man at 1.8m in length.  

  • Mangshan pit viper with forked tongue out
    Protobothrops mangshanensis

    Mangshan pit viper

    Mangshan pit vipers are one of the rarest of all snakes and were only identified by the scientific world in 1990.

  • Female Lake Oku frog
    Xenopus longipes

    Lake Oku clawed frog

    Lake Oku frogs are only found in one tiny lake in Cameroon, and we were the first to ever successfully breed this critically endangered species.

  • Philippine Crocodile at London Zoo
    Crocodylus mindorensis

    Philippine crocodile

    There are one only around 120 left in the wild, but we are working to recover Philippine crocodiles at the Zoo and in the field.

  • Anam leaf turtle at London Zoo
    Mauremys annamensis

    Annam leaf turtle

    The anam leaf turtle is one of the most endangered reptiles on earth, there are only around 50 remaining individuals in the wild. Little is known about them, but we are working to better understand the species.

  • Big-headed turtle, it has a proportionally huge head and a long tail, and is a reddish-brown in appearance.
    Platysternon megacephalum

    Big-headed turtle

    This turtle’s head is so big it can’t be withdrawn inside its shell. Instead, the top and sides of its head are covered with a large bony ‘roof’ that acts like armour.