Protecting the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard

From The Nature Conservancy.

Is it more poisonous than a rattlesnake? Does it cause lightning strikes? And can it make a pregnant woman miscarry if she just looks at it?

These are just some of the many myths that surround the wildly misunderstood Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti — more commonly known as the Guatemalan beaded lizard. Actually, the creature is helpful to humans: Its venom is now used as an effective treatment for diabetes.

But fewer than 200 of these lizards survive — with the species in danger of extinction because of poaching and habitat conversion. The Nature Conservancy is implementing a two-pronged approach to save this important reptile:

  • We're conserving the lizard’s habitat within the 50,000 acre patch of dry thorn scrub in Guatemala’s Motagua Valley.

  • We're working to have it internationally recognized as an endangered species to deter poaching for collectors.

  • We're educating the local community to build awareness about the creature's harmless nature and endangered status.

A Rare Species with Life-Saving Venom

  • It's around 20 inches long with striking yellow markings and stripes on its tail.

  • It has a long, forked tongue and belongs to the only family of venomous lizards in the world. (Its poison is not fatal to humans, but can kill small animals.)

  • It endures high temperatures and long periods of drought by becoming totally inactive (a behavior known as aestivating).

  • During its dormant period (from January to June), the beaded lizard survives on the food stored in its tail.

Scientists are now researching the beaded lizard's venom for other medicinal properties. But in the meantime, conservationists are trying to save this precious lizard from extinction.

Related: Red-Eyed Tree Frog: Rainforest Ambassador.


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