The Gila monster is a newcomer that has enriched the collection of exotic reptiles in Gdańsk Zoo. This interesting lizard, native to North America, came from Marwell Zoo in the UK. It is one of very few living species of venomous lizards. Its venom is not as dangerous to humans as snake bites, but it can be very painful.
The Gila monster is native to the south – western areas of the United States and north – western Mexico. It is a desert dweller and lives in dry areas with thickets as well as in rocky foothills of mountains to an altitude of 1,500 m above sea level. For a representative of lizards it is quite slow. In the wild it eats eggs, young birds, small rodents and reptiles. The young Gila has a voracious appetite – a single meal may comprise up to 50% of its body mass. Adult specimens reach as many as 58 cm in body length and over 2 kg in weight. This huge appetite allows a Gila monster to create a surplus – it can store fat in its tail. As a result this lizard is able to go months between meals. Its lifespan often exceeds 20 years.
Did you know that…
The Gila monster’s toxin is being subjected to scientific research, because it contains a protein that may be helpful in treating type 2 diabetes.
- Latin name: Heloderma suspectum suspectum
- IUCN Red List – NT- Near Threatened
- CITES – Appendix II
- EEP – Species or subspecies in European Endangered Species Programme