Chehaw’s new exhibit features rare venomous lizards

Apr 03, 2015

Staff Reports

ALBANY — Chehaw officials have announced the opening of a brand new exhibit that is home to two Guatemalan Beaded Lizards.

#One of two venomous lizards in the world, the beaded lizard is only found in the Motagua Valley in Guatemala. That’s an area of only about 55 square miles — roughly the size of Albany. Chehaw is one of only two zoos in the United States to house beaded lizards as part of its zoological collection. The lizards are on loan to Chehaw from the Guatemalan government via Zoo Atlanta. The exhibit is located in the reptile house inside the zoo.

#It is estimated that there are only about 150 to 200 individuals remaining in the wild. They are critically endangered mainly due to habitat destruction, illegal collection for captive trade, and belief in local Guatemalan myths that purport the lizard to have magical powers. Components of this species’ saliva and venom are being used in a new diabetes drug called Byetta. The lizard spends up to 70 percent of its life underground and feeds on nestling birds, rabbits, and rodents, as well as reptile eggs.

#Chehaw has been an ongoing financial supporter of the conservation program known as Project Heloderma, based in Guatemala. 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.

#Chehaw is accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums, assuring the highest standards of animal care and husbandry. Chehaw is a non-profit organization located at 105 Chehaw Park Road.

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