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Rare lizard is one of just seven ever hatched in captivity
Thursday, March 29, 2012

Guatemalan beaded lizard born at Zoo Atlanta

The rarest lizards at Zoo Atlanta can now add one more to a globally tiny population. A Guatemalan beaded lizard began hatching on Monday, March 26, in the World of Reptiles.

Zoo Atlanta currently holds the nation’s only zoological collection of Guatemalan beaded lizards, which have not reproduced in captivity in more than five years, and becomes the second institution to successfully reproduce the species. The new hatchling is one of only seven known to have been born in captivity worldwide; six others were hatched at the San Diego Zoo in 2004 and 2006.

The newborn will also bring critical genetic diversity to the captive population of one of the world’s rarest lizard species, as its mother is a wild-born animal with genes previously unrepresented in captivity.

Found only in the Motagua Valley in Guatemala, these lizards may number fewer than 200 in the wild.  The species has faced serious challenges because of habitat loss and illegal trade, as well as suffering from long-held popular myths that the elusive, venomous lizards had nefarious magical powers. Zoo Atlanta partners with Zootropic, a nonprofit organization based in Guatemala, on Project Heloderma, which works to purchase and protect Guatemalan beaded lizard habitat, combat black-market trade, and educate local people on the value of saving a national treasure.