The largest zoo in Georgia is working hard to help conserve one of the world’s rarest lizard species.
Zoo Atlanta sent 11 endangered Guatemalan beaded lizards (Heloderma charlesbogerti) to La Aurora Zoo in Guatemala City on Jan. 10. The lizards hatched at the zoo and will join a breeding colony in the species’ native region.
“The lizards, three males and eight females, will be part of a breeding colony to bolster the wild population of the species, which is estimated to number only 500 to 600 individuals in its native Motagua Valley,” officials at Zoo Atlanta explained in a press release.
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Specialists at Guatemala City’s Universidad del Valle and La Aurora Zoo will have the lizards, which are venomous, continue the breeding program and eventually their offspring will be released into the wild.
“The lizards that went down will not be released into the wild themselves, however,” Zoo Atlanta’s Curator of Herpetology Robert L. Hill explained on Wednesday.
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“The plan is that these animals would reproduce in their beaded lizard-specific facilities, and that following a quarantine period, the offspring would then be transferred from La Aurora Zoo to protected areas within the known wild range of the species in the dry forests of the Motagua Valley.”
Hill added Zoo Atlanta is “immensely grateful” for all the help that it received from U.S. and Guatemalan wildlife experts.
The Guatemalan beaded lizard lives below ground and eats bird and reptile eggs “almost exclusively,” according to Zoo Atlanta.
Its population is threatened due to habitat loss, fear-based killings by humans and illegal collection for international pet trade. The study and conservation of the lizards, as well as Zoo Atlanta’s contributions, date back more than 25 years.
A Zoo Atlanta spokesperson told Fox News Digital that the lizards will not be on display in Guatemala. Their relatives, however, can be seen at Zoo Atlanta.
“The 11 lizards who were just transferred down to Guatemala will be living in a behind-the-scenes specialized facility, so they will not be visible to zoo guests at that zoo,” the spokesperson explained.
The lizards’ relatives, however, can be seen at Zoo Atlanta.
Hill said, “So, the next time you visit [Zoo Atlanta’s] Scaly Slimy Spectacular, stop by the Guatemalan beaded lizard habitat and think about how the family members of those animals are contributing to the next generation of Guatemalan beaded lizards, not just here, but in Guatemala.”
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