A monster save
Wednesday 16 January 2008
ZSL London Zoo is celebrating the birth of two threatened gila monsters (Heloderma suspectum), bred for the first time in 15 years. The second most poisonous reptile in the world, the monsters are incredibly hard to breed and will immediately become part of a European breeding programme.
When a zoo in Glasgow closed ZSL London Zoo took the lizards in and after a male was introduced, both females laid eggs a year later. The babies measure up to 12.5cm long including a 5cm tail but will grow to a massive two feet when fully grown. Native to America, the gila monster is the second biggest lizard in the USA. So important is their survival, they are being kept backstage until being transferred to other zoos next year, but their proud parents can be seen in the reptile house.
A gila monster’s body can be pink, yellow or orange with black bands, which are used to warn off predators. Earlier this year, scientists discovered the reptile contains a chemical in its saliva that helps regulate blood sugar – it was then used to produce a pioneering drug for sufferers of Diabetes.
ZSL’s Curator of Herpetology, Richard Gibson, said: “This amazing reptile is under serious threat due to the loss of their habitats and illegal hunting for the pet trade. The gila monsters have been at ZSL London Zoo for three years and it has taken time to get them into condition for breeding. Breeding programmes are useful safety nets against extinction and they raise awareness of the plight of the species in the wild.”
ZSL also supports Project Heloderma.