A Mexican beaded lizard, alias Heloderma horridum, alias tola-hini: This year’s first offspring is born at the Moscow Zoo

A Mexican beaded lizard, alias Heloderma horridum, alias tola-hini: This year’s first offspring is born at the Moscow Zoo
Within the next few months, the Zoo will add to its collection several binturongs, Poitou donkeys, a knob-scaled lizard, and other rare animals.

Moscow Zoo has welcomed a new baby lizard this year, born to a couple of rare Mexican beaded lizards. It is the first beaded lizard birth at the zoo in in more than three years.

“This long-awaited offspring arrived after we created an optimal upkeep environment, almost identical to the natural one, and also because we chose the right diet and feeding regime. That this species can propagate in captivity is of much importance for the zoo community,” Moscow Zoo General Director Svetlana Akulova said.

The little lizard is still being kept in the inner premises, where herpetologists can monitor its health and behaviour. From there, it will soon be transferred to the Terrarium pavilion in the zoo’s new territory.

The small predator weighs a mere 20 grammes. It will grow until it is six years old when it reaches puberty. Adult specimens are rather large, attaining 90 cm in length, and a weight of over 4.5 kg. Their thick skin is dark in colour with distinct yellowish spots and bands. The back is covered with variously-sized scales and its strong feet have sharp claws, which the lizard uses to tear its prey or scratch the soil. Its lower teeth are poisonous, with the venom secreted by the salivary glands located under the lower jaw. 

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The Mexican beaded lizard (Heloderma horridum, alias tola-hini) is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Its population in the wild is relatively stable, if steadily declining in recent years with the shrinking of natural habitats.

Beaded lizards are found on the coast of the Gulf of California in western and south-western Mexico and in Guatemala. They prefer dry stony terrain, dry river beds or thorn scrub forests. Most of the time they lie in deep earth holes, either dug by themselves or taken from other animals. When in danger, a lizard often lies still underground for several days, coming to the surface only when it gets hungry. The species hunts after dusk or in the early hours, preying on snakes, small rodents, other lizards, birds and bird eggs. They are peculiar in that fat accumulates in their tail area.

“We are happy to have this year’s first litter. Within the next few months, we expect both new births and long-awaited additions to our collection of species. Before the end of the year, we will have a couple of binturongs (their peculiar appearance and specific body movements have earned them the name feline bears), a couple of Poitou donkeys (the giant mammoth ass), a knob-scale lizard or xenosauridae (a rare Central American reptile), and a Bali myna (Bali sparrow),” Svetlana Akulova said.

According to Ms Akulova, the zoo is negotiating to try to obtain slender lorises, a green magpie (Chinese magpie), a silvery gibbon, a lion-headed tamarin, an Aye-Aye (Chiromys Madagascariensis), and other rare species.

More than 800 young animals were born at the Moscow Zoo in 2018, bringing the total collection to over 1,200 species and 10,500 individual animals. The most prolific were the birds (at 341 hatchlings) and the mammals (247 young animals). The reptiles were next in line with 68 youngsters, while the fishes and amphibians contributed over 50.

On St Tatiana’s Day, the Moscow Zoo offers an interactive programme for university students, Unibeast Quest, with all girls called Tatiana eligible for a 40 percent discount on their entry tickets. Participation in the quest is free of charge but you will have to register in good time by calling +7 (499) 255-57-63.