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39 of Earth’s rarest reptiles

When writing these blogs as a zookeeper, I like to think about what snippets of information about our careers that our guests would be fascinated with reading. You all should remember that sometimes the extraordinary events that our guests get to experience when visiting the Zoo may appear to not faze us keepers. This is not because we animal care professionals do not recognize just how amazing our careers are, but that we get to witness amazing life experiences almost daily, which is neat if you ask me. So, those extraordinary situations are just the perks of being a zookeeper. Okay, I am done bragging for today. Let us get to the fun stuff.

Let me enlighten you all about feeding one of Earth’s rarest reptiles. I am talking about the incredibly endangered Guatemalan beaded lizard that the Herpetology Department is so privileged to take care of here at the Zoo. If some of you are not aware, Zoo Atlanta had its most successful hatching season this spring. We hatched 13 incredible baby lizards. Should I also throw in that we are currently the only zoological conservation organization outside of Guatemala that currently breeds Guatemalan beaded lizards? Thirteen babies; you may think that that is a lot of little mouths to feed, which it is, but let’s not forget about the 26 other individuals, ranging from juveniles to adults, that we currently house at Zoo Atlanta. Do the math, and that leaves us feeding the venomous mouths of 39 Guatemalan beaded lizards! I will tell you this, they are not shy about going back for seconds or thirds when it comes to food. As I was feeding our “crew” today, I had a moment where I thought just how amazing it is to spend my time individually feeding each unique beaded lizard. That is true for all the animals we care for. But here are some more details: Our group of beaded lizards eats a range of foods, and every individual is tong-fed an average of one to three items a week. Their menu consists of things like mice, rats, chicks and even whole quail eggs. Let me be real honest and say that they gladly take their time with food as well. This is because like how a snake eats, they swallow their prey whole. We ensure each animal gets the appropriate amount of food by patiently serving our group of lizards one item at a time and providing fine dining at its best. But what is amazing is in that time taking those moments and learning about simple behaviors these animals do just by observing them during mealtime.

So, there you have it, Guatemalan beaded lizard feeding here at Zoo Atlanta. I know what you are all thinking: How are those babies doing? They are all doing fantastic and growing like little weeds, due to the awesome care our Herpetology Team provides to ensure healthy growth and the future of such an amazing species. Remember, next time you visit Scaly Slimy Spectacular at Zoo Atlanta, make sure to check out the Guatemalan beaded lizards and keep in mind they enjoy sitting down to a feast just as much as we do!
Trent Niesen
Lead Keeper, Herpetology

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl