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His defense strategy is extraordinary: in the event of danger, the armored belt tail bites its tail and curls up into a ring. This protects his vulnerable belly side. The South African mini kites have now had offspring in the Schönbrunn Zoo. “In Europe there are currently only five zoos in which armored belt tails live. The fact that the offspring are successful is something very special, ”says zoo director Stephan Hering-Hagenbeck proudly. “There have been two young animals since September 27th. In these lizards, the eggs develop in the mother's body, where the young hatch and are born alive. ”The little ones are backstage, but six adult animals can be admired in the desert house in front of the zoo's gates. Atypical for reptiles, they live in social associations.

Their spiky scales and their defense strategy protect armored belt tails from natural predators such as birds of prey and jackals, but not from humans. In 2016, the adult animals were confiscated from a smuggler by customs at Vienna Schwechat Airport. For long-term care, the animals were brought to the Schönbrunn Zoo together with poisonous snakes, turtles and geckos. Hering-Hagenbeck: “The armored belt tails, which are up to 20 centimeters in size, inhabit rocky mountain slopes on the west coast of South Africa. It is currently not known how large their population is in the wild. The World Conservation Organization IUCN assumes, however, that illegal trade represents an enormous threat and sees an urgent need for action."

Photo credits: Daniel Zupanc