Reptile Hatchlings at Zoo Atlanta Are ‘Lucky 13’


Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for one of the planet’s rarest reptile species! Zoo Atlanta has had their most successful season ever for hatching Guatemalan Beaded Lizards. The Zoo welcomed a total of 13 hatchlings this spring, which is a record for Zoo Atlanta.

Zoo Atlanta is one of only four zoos in the U.S. housing Guatemalan Beaded Lizards. Since the arrival of the Zoo’s first hatchling in 2012, a total of 35 have successfully hatched in subsequent years.

Guatemalan Beaded Lizards lay their eggs in fall and early winter. The 13 new hatchlings began emerging from their eggs on March 31, 2017.

“Every animal birth at Zoo Atlanta is important, but it is especially so when we consider that there are so few Guatemalan Beaded Lizards in the wild. This species is not only exceptionally rare but challenging to reproduce,” said Hayley Murphy, DVM, Vice President of Animal Divisions. “We are very proud to see Zoo Atlanta leading the way in helping to ensure a future for this species and in sharing what we have learned with our partners in the U.S. and Guatemala.”



4_guatemalanbeadedlizard_hatchlings2017_egg_ZA_9372Photo Credits: Zoo Atlanta

The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard (Heloderma charlesborgeti) is an example of an animal most Americans would have no awareness of were it not for zoological populations.

As reclusive as they are rare, the lizards are found only in the Motagua Valley in Guatemala, where they are believed to number fewer than 200 in the wild. The species and its close relatives, which include the Gila Monster of the southwestern United States, are the only known venomous lizards.

The Beaded Lizard is a specialized vertebrate nest predator, feeding primarily on bird and reptile eggs. It is semi-arboreal and can be found climbing deciduous trees in search of prey when encountered above ground. It occasionally preys upon small birds, mammals, frogs, lizards, and insects.

The lizard species becomes sexually mature at six to eight years and mates between September and October. The female will lay her clutch of two to 30 eggs between October and December, and the clutch will hatch the following June or July.

Young lizards are seldom seen, emerging from underground at two to three years of age after gaining considerable size.

Although Guatemalan Beaded Lizards spend most of their lives below ground and rarely encounter humans, wild populations face serious challenges because of habitat loss and illegal trade. The species faces additional pressures from fear-based killing resulting from long-held myths that the lizards have supernatural powers.

Zoo Atlanta has worked with the Foundation for the Endangered Species of Guatemala on Conservation Heloderma, which works to purchase and protect Guatemalan Beaded Lizard habitat; combat black-market trade; promote local education; and improve the lives of people living in communities that share the lizards’ native range.

The properties of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard’s venom, which is used only in self-defense and is not used to capture prey, have only recently become known to science. Unlike most lizard species, the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard has a high aerobic capacity and is able to stabilize its blood sugar levels during contrasting periods of eating and fasting, thanks to a unique hormone. This hormone has been synthesized by pharmaceutical companies in the treatment of human diabetes.

For more information on conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta, visit:

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Fourteen Thorny Devils Hatch at Alice Springs

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The Alice Springs Desert Park, in the Northern Territory, Australia, has successfully produced fourteen new resident Thorny Devil Lizards.

The recent hatching of the fourteen healthy Thorny Devils (Moloch horridus), also known as Thorny Dragon, adds to the Desert Park’s diverse range of wildlife currently available for viewing.

Specialist Keeper, Invertebrates and Reptiles, Pete Nunn said that the Desert Park is thrilled to have such an extensive collection of Thorny Devils in captivity. “Thorny Devils are not normally kept, let alone bred at most zoos and wildlife parks around Australia,” he said. “The Thorny Devil usually lives in the arid scrub land and desert that covers most of Central Australia. For example, it inhabits the Tanami and Simpson Desert in the deep interior.”

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4_P1000797Photo Credits: Alice Springs Desert Park

Over time the Thorny Devils have evolved and adapted to the environment they live in.

“Thorny Devils live on a diet of nothing but small black ants. They feed in the cooler mornings and late afternoon,” Mr. Nunn continued. “When they locate a trail of ants they lick them up with their short, sticky tongue. Thorny Devils might eat a thousand or more ants in a single meal.”

When it comes to hydration, Thorny Devils collect moisture in the dry desert by the condensation of dew on their bodies at night.

“This dew forms on its skin, and then it is channeled to its mouth in microscopic grooves between its spines,” said Mr. Nunn.

The hatchlings took 98 days to incubate and weighed in at a tiny two grams.

From the fourteen total Thorny Devils that hatched, four are on display at the Alice Springs Desert Park’s nocturnal house, sand country exhibit.

For further details and park information visit:

Reptile Hatchings at San Diego Zoo Boost Rare Species

Two rare reptile species native to two delicate island ecosystems—the Black Tree Monitor, native to the Aru Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea; and the Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko, native to Madagascar—have reproduced at the San Diego Zoo and offer hope for two little-known, yet important species.

Monitor_001_WebPhoto Credit:  San Diego Zoo

Four Black Tree Monitor babies hatched from eggs laid in January and are the first ever hatched at the zoo.  The young lizards weigh about two-fifths of an ounce each, and are doing well.

Black Tree Monitors live in the hot, humid forests and mangrove swamps of the Aru Islands off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They are dependent on the forest canopy to survive, but most of the regional forest on the Aru Islands has already been lost. Other threats to the species include the pet trade and non-native predators, such as foxes and cats. With the threats the Black Tree Monitor faces in the wild, establishing insurance populations in accredited zoos will help ensure the survival of the species.

Mossy Leaf-tailed Geckos face similar challenges in the wild, and have also experienced recent breeding success. The zoo received a confiscated group of mossy Leaf-tailed Geckos in 2010. The geckos have since produced eight hatchlings, with several generations now thriving at the zoo.

Leaf-tailed Geckos have evolved to resemble leaves, blending into their forest surroundings to avoid predators and better ambush their insect prey. However, more than 80 percent of Madagascar’s forests have been decimated by logging, agriculture, housing development and other human activity, threatening the future of the species. With these ongoing threats, keeping healthy satellite populations outside of Madagascar is increasingly important as a safeguard against extinction.

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.



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.

Look Who Just Hatched!

A tiny Carpet Chameleon has just emerged from its egg at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo!  Weighing about the same as four toothpicks, this little Lizard is one of seven Carpet Chameleons to hatch between January 12 and February 12 at the zoo.


Photo Credit:  Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo

Native to Madagascar, Carpet Chameleons are one of the smallest true Chameleons.  In their forest habitat, Carpet Chameleons sport dark colors in the mornings as they warm themselves in the sun.  Once they are warmed up, they traverse tree branches in search of flies, grasshoppers, and insect larvae.  Food is captured on the tips of the Chameleons’ sticky tongues, which can be as long as the Lizards themselves (up to 10 inches). 

At just three months of age, carpet Chameleons reach sexual maturity and begin breeding.  Though many species in Madagascar are threatened with extinction, these Chameleons are abundant.

See more photos of the Chameleon below.

Continue reading "Look Who Just Hatched! " »

Lots of Lizards for Staten Island Zoo

Crocs_7_3Seven rare Chinese Crocodile Lizards recently were born at the Staten Island Zoo.  This may seem like a large litter, but the last litter included 11 babies!

Photo Credit:  Staten Island Zoo

Chinese Crocodile Lizards are native to China and Vietnam, where they live in cool forests. These Lizards are semiaquatic, often sitting in streams or among vegetation, awaiting passing insects, worms, and tadpoles. Unlike most reptiles that lay eggs, they give birth to live young.

Due to extensive habitat destruction and capture for the pet trade, Chinese Crocodile Lizards are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Just over 1,000 of these Lizards are thought to remain in the wild.

See more photos of the Lizard hatchlings below.

Continue reading "Lots of Lizards for Staten Island Zoo" »

Crocodile Skink a First for Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Crocodile Skink Fort Wayne Children's Zoo 1
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo welcomed a new addition on February 10 – a two-inch-long Crocodile Skink.  It’s the first time this lizard species has ever hatched at the zoo.  The hatchling weighed two grams, approximately the weight of a pencil eraser. 

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Crocodile Skink Fort Wayne Children's Zoo 2
Crocodile Skink Fort Wayne Children's Zoo 4
Crocodile Skink Fort Wayne Children's Zoo 5Photo Credit:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

This little Crocodile Skink came as a surprise to zoo keepers.  Late last year, zoo keepers discovered that the zoo’s two adult Crocodile Skinks had produced an egg in their exhibit.  Zoo keeper Dave Messmann accidentally disturbed the egg while cleaning the Skinks’ aquarium.  “We were concerned about the disturbance.  It’s best practice to avoid moving a reptile egg,” Messmann said.  That’s because if a reptile egg is disturbed, an air pocket inside the egg can shift, potentially causing the embryo to suffocate. 

Hoping for the best, zoo keepers decided to incubate the egg by placing it in a deli tub filled with wet moss.  The egg incubated at room temperature, undisturbed.  After 60 days, the egg hatched.

Now more than a month old, the hatchling is developing normally.  The gender is not yet known.  Adult Crocodile Skinks are about eight inches long and weigh about one pound.

Crocodile Skinks are native to New Guinea in Southeast Asia, where they inhabit moist areas along waterways.  They are one of the few lizards that make sounds.  Because they are secretive, little is known about them in the wild.

Panther Chameleons Make a Colorful Family at South Carolina Aquarium

©South Carolina Aquarium Panther Chameleon Babies (2 of 50) Raul

The South Carolina Aquarium welcomed four Panther Chameleons, born last month. The four babies have been named Raul (pictured above, born August 9), Nico (born August 16), Ronald (born August 18), and Clarence (born August 19). These lizards are native to the biologically diverse Island of Madagascar. Like many chameleons, Panther Chameleons can change colors depending on the temperature, mood, and light. Males are generally more colorful than females. Their tongues are extremely long, often many times longer than their body.

©South Carolina Aquarium Panther Chameleon Babies (49 of 50) Clarence
©South Carolina Aquarium Panther Chameleon Babies (14 of 50) Nico
©South Carolina Aquarium Panther Chameleon Babies (32 of 50)Ronald
©South Carolina Aquarium Pather Chameleon Baby Raul (11 of 86) Raul
Raul. Photo Credits: South Carolina Aquarium 

Gila Monsters Hatch at Aqua Terra Zoo


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. 


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


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.   



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