Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s popular, and less well-known animal residents.
This week we get a rare insight into the underground world of some very important lizards.
Hispaniolan Galliwasp (Diploglossus warreni)
Measuring just 45cm and with brown colourings, Hispaniolan Galliwasps are certainly not the largest or most colourful but they are undoubtedly one of the world’s rarest lizards.
They inhabit the forests of Haiti and the Dominican Republic – although they are now so rare they are only found in one area of Haiti and are thought to be already extinct in the Dominican Republic.
Their critically endangered status is due to the clearance of their forest habitats to make room for agriculture and the introduction of predators such as mongooses and cats.
Fighting and families
These lizards spend much of their time underground, emerging in the evening to feed on worms, insects and other small animals.
It’s not easy to tell the difference between the male and female of the species, although males have larger heads and often fight one another over territory.
Galliwasps have very large families, after a pregnancy lasting 90 days a female will give birth to up to 40 young! These young lizards won’t breed until they are at least four years old.
Their rarity and nocturnal nature means Galliwasps are extremely difficult to study in the wild and most observations of the lizards are carried out in captivity.
Our Galliwasps were bred at the Berkshire College of Agriculture in 2011. If suitable habitats are secured, they could be called on to help reinforce the wild population.
The Tilgate four
We welcomed our four lizards in early September and are proud to house such rare reptiles. They are currently off show while we allow them to settle in and ensure they are all feeding properly. Their diet consists of crickets, earthworms, mice and mince.
To discover more, visit www.tilgatenaturecentre.co.uk