Scientific Name: 

Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti

Conservation Status:
Critically endangered

Where to see them:
Scaly Slimy Spectacular

Fun Facts:

The Guatemalan beaded lizard is one of only two species of venomous lizards in the world.

Components of this species’ saliva and venom are used in a new diabetes drug called Byetta.

Guatemalan beaded lizards and their relatives the gila monsters can spend up to 70 percent of their lives underground.


 Guatemalan Beaded Lizard

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Adult males are slightly longer and heavier than females. Males can measure up to about 900 millimeters in length; females, up to about 750 millimeters. The average adult size in the wild is 600 millimeters; weights range from 1.8 to 2.2 kilograms.

Adult males are slightly longer and heavier than females. Males up to about 900mm in length, females up to about 750 mm in length- the average size of an adult in the wild is 600mm. weights of adults range from 1.8 to 2.2 kilograms.

Semi-arid portions of the Motagua Valley in Guatemala

Dry forest and thorn scrub habitat; the species is restricted to disjunct patches of intact forest within this area.

Guatemalan beaded lizards specialize on nestling animals. Their main foods are nestling rodents and rabbits, nestling birds and bird and reptile eggs

Life Cycle
Very little research on the natural history and life cycle of the Guatemalan beaded lizard had been conducted prior to 2001. In fact, during the mid-1990’s, it was thought by some herpetologists that the species was extinct. In 2001, Daniel Ariano of Zootropic discovered some lizards and began a long-term natural history study of the species. Female Guatemalan beaded lizards reach sexual maturity at about 5-6 years of age in captivity, and this probably is extended in the wild to up to 10 years. Females lay four to eight eggs in underground burrows between November and February. The young do not emerge from the burrow for 10-12 months. It is not known if the young hatch in the burrow and remain underground, or if the eggs take that long to hatch; in captivity, eggs from this species hatch in about 130-150 days. Nothing is known about the lifestyle of juvenile beaded lizards.

Guatemalan beaded lizards live in the driest range of any of the beaded lizards or gila monsters. Their habitat receives only up to a maximum of 20 inches of rain per year. Adult beaded lizards have two very distinct lifestyles: during the drier parts of the year, from December to June, the Guatemalan beaded lizard drastically reduces its activity. During this period, individuals remain constantly concealed in subterranean shelters that provide protection from extreme temperatures and desiccation. Activity above ground is generally limited to the short rainy season between July and November, with the most active period occurring in October. At this time the lizard moves to a new shelter almost every night, covering distances of as much as 1 kilometer during each move. The most active animals are males searching for females. The reproductive season in the wild is between mid September and early November. Guatemalan beaded lizards can live for up to 50 years.

Population Status & Threats
Adult Guatemalan beaded lizard has few enemies. The main predators on the young include snakes and hawks. These lizards are endangered due mainly to habitat destruction, illegal collection for the captive trade and killing by local people due to negative myths. The habitat for the Guatemalan beaded lizard comprises only about 35,000 acres (about the size of Disney World). Much of this area is used for agricultural purposes, with the main uses being melon, corn and cattle production. There are only about 150-200 individuals remaining in the wild.

Zoo Atlanta Conservation Efforts
Zoo Atlanta has an ongoing (since 2005) conservation program known as Project Heloderma, based in Guatemala with two major partners: Zootropic and the International Reptile Conservation Foundation (IRCF). Zootropic, an NGO in Guatemala started Project Heloderma in 2002. This far-ranging conservation program consists of four major components: Applied research, environmental education, habitat conservation and the generation of governmental policies for the lizard’s preservation. The research has focused on the determination of the lizard’s distribution in the Motagua Valley, the nature and causes of threats to its conservation, the basic biology of the animal and the use of shelters within the habitat. This critical information has been used to guide policy discussions and habitat acquisition. Recently a 125-acre footprint (1,000 acres total) parcel of prime beaded lizard habitat was purchased with funds received from grants by Eli Lilly corp., the Oklahoma City Zoo, Toronto Zoo and the National Reptile Breeders Expo.

In 2003, an environmental education program was initiated and has been ongoing in three localities within the range of the lizard. In the past three years, this program has been expanded to encompass the lizard’s entire range. This expansion was possible due to grants from the International reptile Conservation Foundation (4-wheel drive vehicle), Disney’s Worldwide Conservation Foundation and San Diego Zoo. Project Heloderma recently received a grant for a  nature swap program that will allow us to build a headstart/breeding facility on the recently purchased property. Zoo Atlanta, Zootropic and the IRCF have been working to involve local people in Heloderma conservation by establishing private communally protected areas in the region, for the preservation of the last remnants of dry forests in which the last Guatemalan beaded lizards live.