Lizard

Gila Monsters Hatch at Aqua Terra Zoo

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After a four-and-a-half month incubation period, several Gila Monsters have hatched at Austria’s Aqua Terra Zoo.  Hatchlings are about 6 inches long (15 cm) and can bite and produce venom from the moment they hatch. 

Native to the southwestern United States and Mexico, Gila Monsters are one of only two venomous lizard species native to North America.  (The other is the Mexican beaded lizard.)  Despite being venomous, Gila Monsters are slow-moving, so they are not a great threat to humans. 

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Photo Credit:  Aqua Terra Zoo

Gila Monsters do not inject their venom; rather it is applied through capillary action while the lizard is chewing its prey.  They typically feed on bird and reptile eggs, and in the wild may eat less than a dozen times per year.

Drugs for the treatment of type 2 diabetes have been derived from Gila Monster saliva.  Research continues on other components of Gila Monster saliva as potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.


Customs Agents intervene to rescue rare Johnston's Chameleons

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Two tiny and very delicate Johnston’s Chameleons hatched the UK’s Exmoor Zoo. Just over an inch (3 cm) long, the babies had an auspicious start in life:  they were laid by a female that was part of an illegal shipment en route to the Czech Republic and seized by customs agents in Belgium.

Because Johnston’s Chameleons occur only in the western branch of Tanzania’s African Rift Valley – the Albertine Rift – they are extremely rare in captivity, according to Danny Reynolds of the Exmoor Zoo.  “They are probably the first of this species ever born in captivity within UK zoos,” he said.   

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The illegal shipment of 59 Chameleons was due to be destroyed when the UK’s Specialist Wildlife Services and UK Customs officials intervened and placed all the lizards in UK zoos. Females at several other zoos have laid eggs, but those at the Exmoor Zoo were the first to hatch.

Like all Chameleons, Johnston’s Chameleons are zygodactylous – they have two toes pointing forward and two toes pointing backward, which enables them to easily cling to tree branches (or toothpicks, as seen in the photos above).  They capture insects with their long, extrudable tongues.  In captivity, the babies are fed fruit flies and day-old crickets.

Photo Credit:  Exmoor Zoo


Leapin' Lizards! Two rare species born at Austria's Aqua Terra Zoo

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Austria’s Aqua Terra Zoo is celebrating the long-awaited arrival of two sets of baby lizards:  Panther Chameleons and Chinese Crocodile Lizards.

The zoo’s female Panther Chameleon laid 35 tiny eggs early this year. While the eggs incubated, the staff carefully mimicked the seasonal variations of rainy and dry periods that the species would experience in its native Madagascar.  Finally, the 1/2-inch-long (1 cm) juveniles emerged from their eggs this month.

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A colony of fruit flies is maintained to feed the lizards.  Like all Chameleons, these little ones are amazingly accurate “sharp shooters,” using their tongues to snag the tiny flies.  The staff feeds the colony hourly and waters them by hand to make sure each lizard gets a meal.  The hatchlings have already doubled in size!

Panther Chameleons are listed on Appendix II of CITES, due to loss of habitat on the island of Madagascar.  Sale of animals for the pet trade is tightly controlled by international quotas.

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Hatching the rare Chinese Crocodile Lizard is a noteworthy achievement for the staff at Aqua Terra Zoo. After nearly a year of waiting, the female Chinese Crocodile Lizard gave birth to 12 healthy pups.   These lizards give birth to live young, rather than laying eggs.

Chinese Crocodile Lizards are native to southeastern China and northeastern Vietnam, and are named for the crocodile-like appearance of their tail.  They live near small streams and ponds, where they feed on tadpoles, insects, and caterpillars.  They often remain motionless for hours, and are called “lizards of great sleepiness” by local residents. Forest clearing and collection for the pet trade threaten the small, little-studied populations of Chinese Crocodile Lizards, which are listed on Appendix II of CITES.  Export for the pet trade has diminished with protection from the Chinese government.

Photo Credit: Günther Hulla / Aqua Terra Zoo


Three Wee Tree Monitors

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New York's Buffalo Zoo has announced the latest additions to their Reptile House -- three baby Black Tree monitors (Varanus beccarii). Their birthdays are October 28, 30 and November 2. This is the first time since 2006 that the species have hatched at the zoo.

Black tree monitors are native to the Aru Islands off the coast of New Guinea, and little is known about their natural ecology in the wild. They are highly adapted to life in the trees due to their long, curved claws, streamlined body and long, prehensile tail They can grow to be approximately 3 feet (.914 meters) long. They're carniverous, eating things like insects, scorpions, eggs, and small mammals.

The Black Tree monitor is considered to be a CITES AppendixII (threatened) species due to deforestation. Buffalo Zoo is one of only 13 zoos in North America (and 22 in the world) to house this species and the only zoo in the world reported to have hatched Black Tree monitors this year.

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Chinese Crocodile Lizards Give Birth - You Heard That Right!

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Two female Chinese crocodile lizards gave birth at Seatle's Woodland Park Zoo this fall and their two litters produced a total of eleven babies. And that's right, they were not hatched, but born. These reptiles actually give birth to their young, after a 9-12 month gestation. 

The newborns, weighing approximately 4 to 6 grams, are independent at birth and litter size ranges from 1 to 9. In the last picture below, you can see a side by side size comparison of the adult and baby. Since WPZ acquired a pair in 1993, there have been 70 crocodile lizard offspring born at the Zoo. 

The Chinese crocodile lizard is an endangered lizard found in the Guanxi province in Southern China and in 2002 previously unknown populations were discovered in northern Vietnam. This species is semi-aquatic and lives in creeks between 200–700m in altitude surrounded by broadleaf trees and conifers. This lizard has become severely endangered due to collection for the pet trade and for food, and from habitat destruction.

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Photo credits: Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo

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A Lucky Number: 17 Critically Endangered Iguana Hatchlings

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A critically endangered species of Iguana has bred at Bristol Zoo Gardens for the very first time. Reptile keepers at Bristol Zoo successfully hatched 17 baby Utila spiny-tailed Iguanas – a species that is listed as critically endangered and once considered to be one of the rarest Iguanas in existence.

The eggs were laid after two young adult Iguanas arrived at the zoo last year as a new breeding pair, to boost numbers of this species in captivity. They were transferred to a temperature-controlled incubator for three months until hatching and then moved into a vivarium on display in the Zoo’s Reptile House.

Tim Skelton, Curator of reptiles and amphibians at Bristol Zoo, said: “I’m thrilled that we have successfully hatched so many Iguanas from the first clutch of eggs laid by our new female. This is an interesting and very valuable species because they are only found on one island, Utila, off the coast of Honduras in Central America.”

He added: “The babies are currently only around 15cm long but will eventually grow to approximately 60cm on a diet of vegetation and small insects.”

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Photo Credit: Adam Davis

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Merten's Water Monitor Hatches Before your Eyes!

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A Mertens’ Water Monitor hatched from its egg last week in the World of Reptiles nursery at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo.  The hatchling measured more than eight inches from nose to tail once it freed itself from the egg, which is approximately the same size as a chicken egg. The hatchling is one of 9 siblings at the Zoo.  Mertens’ Water Monitors are a protected species native to Australia and are threatened by collection for the pet trade. WCS works around the globe to protect wildlife and wild places and stop the illegal collection of wild animals.

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Photo credits: Julie Larsen Maher © Wildlife Conservation Society


Leaping Lizards in L.A. and Tampa Bay

My rock! Baby Giant Horned Lizard at the LA ZooToday we bring you back-to-back reptile babies, which means half of our readership just got really excited and the other half just got an uninvited lunchtime surprise! Huge kudos to the L.A. Zoo for breeding the first ever Giant Horned Lizards to be successfully hatched at a North American zoo. “This clutch is a milestone event for the L.A. Zoo and zoos across the continent. These lizards will serve as ambassadors for their species and aid in the study of this species,” said Los Angeles Zoo Curator of Reptiles and Amphibians Ian Recchio. When they first hatched, the lizards weighed about one gram and were roughly the size of a nickel. “Giant” is a relative term, so don’t expect them to grow too large; these fierce-looking lizards will reach a maximum length of about 10 inches when full grown, large for this family of lizards.

Fresh out of the egg Giant Horned Lizard hatchling says hello

King of the hill, horned lizard styleAbove photo credits: Tad Motoyama / L.A. Zoo

Though little is known about the giant horned lizard, they are one of the species that is able to squirt blood out of their eyes as a defense mechanism. While this is an interesting and unique trait, Recchio says “L.A. Zoo reptile keepers haven’t witnessed it first hand and that’s a good thing. When horned lizards perform this action it means they are under stress and feel threatened. Since the lizards haven’t displayed this behavior at the Zoo, it indicates they are comfortable in their environment here.”

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Next we have a baby Mexican Beaded Lizard, one of only two species of venomous lizards in North America, hatched on January 16, 2011 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Beaded lizards have venom glands in their lower jaws that allow them to chew venom directly into their prey. There is no anti-venom to counteract a beaded lizard bite. Zoo staff named the new beaded lizard "Gaspar" to honor Tampa’s annual pirate festival Gasparilla, during which beads are tossed out from parade floats.

See more photos below the fold

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Satanic Gecko - San Diego Zoo's First Birth of 2011

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The San Diego Zoo’s first baby of the year looked quite innocent as it crawled on leaves and even one keeper’s finger yesterday afternoon. But because of the horns above its eyes, the reptile is known as a Satanic Leaf-tailed Gecko. The San Diego Zoo is one of only seven zoos in the United States with this species in its collection and one of only two breeding them. This endangered gecko is native only to Madagascar. You can't make it out in these pictures, but the lizard's tail is wide and flat resembling a leaf.

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Denver Hatches Dragons in Time for Halloween!

As Halloween draws near, Denver Zoo is hatching dragons! Komodo Dragons, that is. Four have already hatched and four more eggs remain in an incubator. The hatchlings began emerging from their shells a week ago. They are all behind-the-scenes now, but visitors should be able to see them in Tropical Discovery’s nursery in time for the zoo’s Halloween event, Boo at the Zoo.

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A Komodo Dragon hatchling emerges from its shell (Below)

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Photo Credit: Dave Parsons/Denver Zoo

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