The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden is pleased to announce the arrival of four critically endangered Guatemalan beaded lizards who hatched in February 2022, the first successful hatching of this species in the OKC Zoo’s 120-year history. This exciting addition marks the OKC Zoo as one of only two Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos currently caring for and successfully breeding the Guatemalan beaded lizard. The Zoo joins its conservation partner, the Foundation for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Guatemala (FUNDESGUA), in raising awareness for this critically endangered species by contributing to the education and habitat restoration efforts to protect the beaded lizards’ limited natural habitat. Formed in 2013, by Oklahoma City Zoo’s Curator of Herpetology, Dr. Brad Lock, FUNDESGUA is dedicated to using science based-strategies embedded in local culture to guide everyday actions for successful conservation results. Two of their target species are the Guatemalan beaded lizard and the Campbell’s alligator lizard. Guests can see the new two-month-old Guatemalan beaded lizard hatchlings at the Zoo’s Herpetarium.
“We’re honored to be a part of this species’ survival,” said the Zoo’s curator of herpetology, Dr. Brad Lock. “Having worked with the Guatemalan beaded lizard for 17 years, it’s great to see that we are able to positively impact this species’ population and contribute to their survival for future generations.”
First discovered by scientists in 1984, the Guatemalan beaded lizard is an isolated species found only in the Rio Motagua Valley in Guatemala. Due to their isolation in the dry, forest eco-type conditions of the Valley, deforestation poses a large threat to this species with only about 500 left in the wild. In countries like Guatemala where extreme poverty is common, access to amenities like electricity is rare and it has become a common practice to utilize old growth trees to use for cooking or as a heating source. This practice is what leads to the deforestation posing risk to the Guatemalan beaded lizard. To help this, FUNDESGUA is creating community-managed forests and supplying saplings with fast-growing native tree species such pine and oak trees for easy access to firewood. This program has successfully expanded to six forests, each with about 10,000 trees. In addition to these forests, conservation curriculum has been introduced in schools that often brings native species to classrooms, engaging and educating students about the importance of conservation. Guests can help support the OKC Zoo’s conservation efforts like FUNDESGUA by Rounding Up for Conservation. Every time someone purchases an admission ticket, food or souvenir, they can ask about “rounding up” their total to the nearest dollar to directly and positively impact wildlife and wild places.
Guatemalan beaded lizards get their name from the black, bead-like scales on its body that extend from the head down to the tip of the tail. Scattered over the body are yellow spots and bands that provide its distinct coloration and pattern. Most closely related to the Gila monster, beaded lizards can live up to 60 years and grow to be about 2.5 to 3 feet long. These lizards are carnivores and eat young mammals, nestling birds, and the eggs of snakes, lizards and birds. The beaded lizard is one of the only venomous lizard species. Unlike other venomous species, beaded lizards have specialized grooved teeth that sit along the bottom jaw along with venom glands.
The Zoo invites you to meet its newest additions at their habitat in the Herpetarium. The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. Purchase advance tickets for general admission at www.okczoo.org/tickets. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular admission is $12 for adults and $9 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Stay up-to-date with the Zoo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, and by visiting Our Stories. Zoo fans can support the OKC Zoo by becoming a member. Memberships can be purchased at ZOOfriends.org or any place admission is sold in the Zoo’s Entry Plaza during regular business hours. To learn more about this event and Zoo other happenings, call (405) 424-3344 or visit www.okczoo.org.