Reptiles

Nashville Zoo Breeds Rare Reptile Species

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The Nashville Zoo’s herpetology team recently celebrated the six-month ‘birth’day of four Central American Giant Galliwasps.

The young reptiles hatched in August of 2016 and became the first hatchlings at the zoo in over ten years. Nashville Zoo is the only facility in the United States to have successfully bred this rare species.

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3_12_central_american_giant_galliwasp_-_5_mos_-_katie_gregory_1Photo Credits: Nashville Zoo

The zoo’s female Galliwasp (pronounced “GALL-ee-wasp”) made a nest chamber underground to coil around her four eggs, to instinctually protect them from predators. Keepers report that she did not emerge from the chamber for food or water for more than two months.

According to the zoo, if the nesting chamber is disturbed in any way, the female will destroy the eggs to prevent predators from getting them. “This makes checking on the condition of the eggs extremely challenging,” said Herpetology Keeper Matt Martino. “Because we couldn’t risk checking on the female or the eggs, we patiently watched for any signs of life, either babies emerging from the nest or movement from the adult female. It was an exciting relief to see the hatchlings and mother start emerging after more than two months of waiting.”

This species is rarely seen in the wild and extremely uncommon in zoo collections. Captive breeding has proven to be extremely difficult for this species and successful breeding techniques are still being developed.

However, Nashville Zoo staff may have finally broken the code for reliably reproducing Central American Giant Galliwasps. The zoo’s herpetology team is continually learning and researching the best husbandry and breeding practices to increase zoo populations and is working towards conservation initiatives for several Galliwasp species facing extinction in the wild.

The Central American Giant Galliwasp (Diploglossus monotropis), also known as Escorpión Coral, is found in the humid Atlantic lowlands of southern Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and western Panama and both versants from Panama to Colombia and western Ecuador.

It is described as a secretive, diurnal, terrestrial species that is rarely encountered in the forest floor of lowland rainforest, and it is restricted to forests and lost from deforested areas, although it can persist in small strips of gallery forest left along rivers.

The IUCN Red List has the species classified as “Least Concern”. According to the IUCN: “Although not abundant it is also not uncommon. It appears to be experiencing at least localized declines, but due to the extent of its range a great deal of suitable forest habitat remains.”


Chester Zoo Releases Rare Footage of Tuatara Hatching

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Incredibly rare footage of a Tuatara hatching from its egg has been caught on camera at Chester Zoo. It is the first time the intricate process has ever been filmed in such stunning detail.

The egg, from which the youngster hatched in the footage, was laid on April 11, and it hatched on December 5, 2016.

The Tuatara is an ancient reptile that has lived on the planet for more than 225 million years…older than many species of dinosaur.

Last year, reptile experts at Chester Zoo became the first in the world to successfully breed the rare animal outside the species’ native New Zealand.

Now, six more have hatched at the Zoo and leading keepers to believe that they have found the ‘winning formula’ when it comes to breeding the mysterious creatures.

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4_Rare footage of ancient reptile hatching caught on film (2)Photo Credits: Chester Zoo

Only a handful of zoos worldwide work with the species, and the new arrivals are a huge boost to the global population of the reptiles, which are notoriously hard to care for. The Tuatara takes more than 20 years to reach sexual maturity and only reproduces every four years.

Isolde McGeorge, reptile keeper, said, “It took nearly 40 years of research and dedication to achieve the very first breeding of a Tuatara outside their homeland in New Zealand last year. Now, after waiting all that time for the first to successfully hatch, six more have come along.”

“Hatching these remarkable animals is real testament to the skill and expertise of the herpetology team at the zoo. Hopefully this means we’ve found the winning formula in terms of breeding the species, which has been a mystery to science for so long. Tuatara lived before the dinosaurs and have survived almost unchanged to the present day. They really are a living fossil and an evolutionary wonder.”

“Breeding the species is an amazing event and almost as special is the fact we’ve now caught a Tuatara hatching on film for the first time. It’s very, very special footage - footage which has barely ever been recorded before, certainly not in this level of detail. We will be able to learn more and more about these amazing animals from this footage. It’s incredibly unique and a real privilege to be able to witness something so rare.”

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Dallas Zoo Welcomes Iconic Texas Hatchlings

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Dallas Zoo recently welcomed their first ever clutch of Texas Horned Lizard hatchlings – 39 babies in all! Also known as “horny toads”, Texas Horned Lizards, were once quite common, but are now disappearing.

This threatened species has vanished in East and Central Texas, and is now decreasing in North Texas, too. While these babies may be only the size of a penny now, they’re helping ensure the survival of this Texas icon.

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3_11222491_10153085148686819_2943863045877479041_oPhoto Credits: Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo has taken an active role in the protection of this threatened reptile. The Dallas Zoo's Texas Horned Lizard Conservation page (http://dzmconservation.wix.com/texashornedlizards#!) provides great information and resources.

Horned Lizards, also known as "horny toads", represent a unique group of lizards that inhabit the southern United States and northern Mexico. The Texas Horned Lizard, Phrynosoma cornutum, is perhaps the most recognizable species of Horned Lizard. It is the largest North American native species of Horned Lizard (Family: Phrynosomatidae) and has the widest distribution of any other Horned Lizard species in the United States.

Once extremely common, they are now in decline throughout much of their range. The Texas Horned Lizard is perhaps the most threatened member of this group, with estimated population declines of greater than 30% across its range (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico) and even higher in Texas. Populations have disappeared in East and Central Texas, and are decreasing in North Texas as well.

Staff of the Dallas Zoo is studying the life history of Texas Horned Lizards at the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch. The Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch is 4,700 acre preserve located in Fisher County, Texas. By collecting lizard life history data (including but not limited to population densities, habitat preferences, diet, sex ratios, activity patterns, etc.) they hope to shed valuable light on the ecology of this threatened native Texan.


Thorny Devil Hatches at Alice Springs Desert Park

11010557_786505621426797_2790897292437850506_nAlice Springs Desert Park, in NT, Australia, recently welcomed a Thorny Devil hatchling in the Park’s Nocturnal House.

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11041663_786507168093309_8590891587676102699_nPhoto Credits: Alice Springs Desert Park

The Thorny Devil (also known as a ‘Thorny Dragon’, ‘Thorny Lizard’, or the ‘Moloch’) is a species that is native to the dry desert and shrub land of Australia. The average adult reaches a length of 15 to 20 cm (5.9 to 8 inches), and will weigh about the same as a mouse (a max of about 95 g or 3.4 oz). They are known to have an average life span of 12 to 20 years.

Thorny Devils are a difficult species to breed in captivity because they will only breed when in excellent condition, which requires keeping them very well fed on a diet of ants throughout winter, until ready for spring breeding. Incubation at the Alice Springs Desert Park took 3 months, at 29 degrees. Time period for incubation varies according to temperature.

Hatchlings are completely independent and soon after hatching, they start eating ants. Surprisingly, it will take 2 years for the young to reach full adult-size.

As with many species of lizard, the female Thorny Devil is slightly bigger than the male and tends to be slightly paler in color. All Thorny Devil individuals tend to change from a paler to a darker color when they cool down.

The Thorny Devil also has a pretend head at the back of its neck which is used to mislead oncoming predators. It will dip its real head down, when threatened, and will therefore have a slight advantage on other animals.

The new addition, at Alice Springs Desert Park, is an exciting achievement for their reptile team. The last time Thorny Devils bred at the Desert Park was in 2008.


Second Endangered Keeled Box Turtle Born in Tennessee

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For the second time in Tennessee Aquarium history, the institution welcomed a rare Keeled Box Turtle hatchling. Like many other Southeast Asian turtles, Keeled Box Turtles have been over-collected in the wild for food and the pet trade. Several conservation organizations are working to protect the remaining wild populations from illegal trade, while zoos and aquariums are building assurance populations so the species does not go extinct if these animals disappear in the wild. Currently the U.S. population of Keeled Box Turtles at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums is less than twenty animals, seven of which are at Tennessee Aquarium.

This baby was the only one to hatch out of seven eggs laid in July. The incubation time was 92 days at a toasty 82 degrees Farenheit and the tiny hatchling weighed just 0.41 oz (11.7 grams).

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Keeled Box Turtle Tennessee Aquarium 3.jpgPhoto credits: Bill Hughes / Tennessee Aquarium

The Tennessee Aquarium has one of the largest turtle collections on public display with more than 500 individuals representing seventy-five species. Their Senior Hereptologist, Bill Hughes, manages the Keeled Box Turtle Studbook and serves as the Species Survival Plan Coordinator for Spiny Turtles, Four-eyed Turtles, and Arakan Forest Turtles. 


A Quartet of Critically Endangered Egyptian Tortoises

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A Quartet of tiny Tortoises (critically endangered Egyptian Tortoises to be exact) has hatched at Marwell Wildlife in Hampshire, U.K. The first youngster to hatch weighed just 3.9g and measures slightly taller than the height of a nickel! New hatchlings may be small but this species can go on to live for up to 50 years.

Egyptian Tprtoises are nearly extinct in the wild. Their habitat (two small populations remain in Libya) has been largely destroyed by human activity. The species is also threatened by the illegal pet trade.

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Photo credit: © Solent Newsagency

Marwell currently houses 10 adults in its Cold Blooded Corner. A full size adult can grow to around 15 centimeters long and weigh 500 grams. Two of Marwell's females laid eggs earlier in the year and these were removed and placed in an incubator to ensure optimal conditions for their development; precisely 30 degrees centigrade and 75% humidity.


A Lucky Number: 17 Critically Endangered Iguana Hatchlings

Utila Island iguanas by Adam Davis

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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Utila Island iguanas by Adam Davis 5
Photo Credit: Adam Davis

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