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A moor frog has turned blue in the UK for the first time in 700 years amid calls for the rare creature to be returned to Britain.
The frogs are widespread across Europe, and turn a distinctive shade of blue in Spring as they prepare to mate, from their natural muddy green colour.
They are not found in the wild in the UK, but some limited evidence suggests they lived in our wetlands 700 years ago. Now, a project funded by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs board member Ben Goldsmith is aiming to "rewild" them to this country.
Staffordshire teenagers Harvey Tweats and Tom Whitehurst run Celtic Reptile and Amphibian, a company aimed at breeding extinct and rare amphibians and reptiles, with the home of returning some of them to our countryside.
They managed to get hold of some moor frogs from a Zoological Society of London reptile breeder, who is one of the few people in the country who keeps them in captivity.
They created a breeding enclosure in a plasterer's bath, and played sounds of males mating so they felt like they were surrounded by rivals, and turned bright blue. Normally, they do not turn fully blue in captivity as the sound of hundreds of rivals triggers the change.
Tweats, 17, told The Telegraph: "It's the first time one's gone fully blue in Britain for 700 years, it's a native species, it was found in Britain until about the 13th Century, there are fossils from the Saxon Period in East Anglia and historical references to it in the 13th Century.
"We hope they would be rewilded alongside beavers because they share a habitat. The amazing thing about this species is it turns blue because they are like a flashing takeaway sign to herons, otters, all manner of different species so provide an important food source. The males gather by the thousands in the Spring among water bodies in Germany, Sweden and into the Arctic Circle.
"It's really rare for them to go fully blue in captivity, some keepers have had them turn blue tinged but we have had them go fully blue."
Financier Ben Goldsmith said: “ Have you ever noticed on holiday how the nighttime in France, Italy or Spain is alive with the singing of insects and amphibians? Nights here in Britain are silent. I think it’s time that we brought back all of the missing life and music to our countryside. Along with Charlie Burrell and Harry Heathcoat Amory I’m a backer of Celtic Reptile and Amphibian. These two boys are building up a captive breeding population of reptiles and amphibians native to Northern Europe but which are either rare or missing altogether from Britain. As we begin the process of restoring long-lost wetlands the length and breath of Britain it will be great to adorn them with these magical British species.”
The phenomenon in Sweden and Germany causes tourists to gather to watch thousands of frogs turn bright blue around lakes.
Tweats believes this could happen in the UK: "It could end up being a tourism opportunity here - kids are absolutely amazed by the fact that a frog turns blue. When I show my 9-year-old brother the frog he's amazed by the fact it can turn blue.
"It looks like it should be in a jungle but it is in the chilly Spring of Britain."
The amphibian expert believes that he managed to make it turn blue by simulating the sounds of other frogs.
"You need literally hundreds to trigger the blue colour, that's why it hasn't happened in captivity, and in captivity you aren't going to get hundreds," he explained.
He believes they should be returned because they provide feeding opportunities for rare species such as otters and egrets.
It is thought by some scientists that in the last 5,000 years we have lost up to 30 percent of our reptiles and amphibians, largely because of the destruction of wetlands and ponds for farming and infrastructure.
There is appetite within government for returning once-native amphibians to Britain, and Natural England often points to the pool frog success story, after they were returned to Norfolk in 2008 after going extinct in England in 1995.