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Guatemalan beaded lizards in trouble

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Posted by: gila91 at Sat Jun 10 02:35:48 2006  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by gila91 ]  

Got this through the largely silent listserve and thought I would pass it on.

The Center for North American Herpetology
Lawrence, Kansas
http://www.cnah. org
2 May 2006

Extinction is Imminent for the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard
(Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti)

The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard is endemic to the arid, desert region
of the
Motagua valley in southeastern Guatemala and is one of the most
animals in the world. This animal was first seen by scientists in
1984, formally
described in 1988 and a decade later was thought to be extinct in
the wild. In
2002, a few individuals were found and limited natural history and
studies resulted in the first, but sparse, data on their lives in
the wild. Most
aspects of the lives of these creatures remain a mystery.

What Happened?

What were the some of the factors that have led to the decline of
Beaded Lizard? First Guatemalan Beaded Lizards live only in a tiny
sliver of
isolated desert habitat in the Motagua Valley of Guatemala; this
area is
by massive cloud-forested mountains and rainforest valleys. Thus, it
these Guatemalan lizards have had a historically limited range and
existed in total isolation on this tiny island of desert habitat for
of years. Further, land conversion for cantaloupe, tobacco, and corn
farming has
reduced the suitable habitat for this lizard to about 40,000 acres
(roughly the
size of Disney World in Orlando); best estimates have it that this
area could
support only 150-200 individuals. These numbers are similar to some
of the
most endangered island iguanas. Being a venomous creature has not
helped this
lizard; many negative myths and attitudes surround this animal. For
example, it
is thought by the local inhabitants, that if your shadow crosses or
touches a
lizard you will begin to slowly waste away and eventually die. Due
to these
until recently, lizards have been killed on sight. Lastly, the
rarity of this
sub-species in particular and the popularity of Beaded Lizards and
Gila Monsters
as captives in general has led to exploitation for the animal
collection market.
has been estimated that approximately 35 individuals were captured
and sold
abroad during the decade of the 1990s.

Is there any hope?

Due to the recent re-discovery of the species and to the two natural
studies performed with support of an interested NGO, Zootropic, the
of Guatemala has shown interest in protecting this as animal and its
habitat. In
addition, Zootropic has launched an education campaign working with
villagers in
the Motagua region. This program has already visited over 25,000
children and
adults and, since 2004, no reports of lizards being killed or sold
have been
reported. Studies are needed and planned to answer basic questions
critical habitat needed by this animal. These will be the main data
needed to
land-preservation decision to best help this creature. There are
also about 9
animals in captivity in Guatemala, spread among as many
institutions. A breeding
facility in the Motagua Valley is urgently needed to produce young
animals for
attempted reintroduction (and education) programs in protected areas.

How You Can Help?

As stated, there likely are no more than 200 individual Guatemalan
Lizards left on earth. Your help is desperately needed to save these
creatures. Wayne Hill and the 2006 National Reptile Breeder's Expo
have agreed
to support the conservation effort for the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard.
proceeds from this year's annual auction will go to the "Project
This is a hugely important, and we thank Wayne for his generous
support of this
project. To make this auction a success we request auction items of
any sort.
Monies collected for this fund will only go to efforts to save the
Beaded Lizard. This money will be specifically used to fund
projects, raise public awareness in Guatemala, and establish a
critically needed
in-country breeding and conservation facility.

If YOU would like to help by contributing auction items please send

Wayne Hill
621 Avenue M SW
Winter Haven, FL 33880
Attn: Project Heloderma

If you would like to make cash donations please make checks payable
to Brad
Lock and send to:

Brad Lock
Zoo Atlanta
800 Cherokee Avenue SE
Atlanta, Georgia 30315
Attn: Project Heloderma

Contact: block@zooatlanta. org


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