Los Angeles Zoo Successfully Hatches Gray’s Monitor Lizard

June 15, 2015

The Los Angeles Zoo has successfully hatched three gray’s monitor lizards (Varanus olivaceus), a feat that has not been accomplished by the zoo in nearly 20 years of trying until now. Two zoos in the Philippines, the Avilon Zoo and the Paradise Reptile Zoo have successfully bred the species. The lizards, 8 inches in length but will grow to nearly six feet as adults hails from the Philippines and was thought extinct for 100 years until its rediscovery some 40 years ago in a Philippine rainforest. Its eggs take about 300 days to hatch and until now, zookeepers have had little success in getting them to hatch, let alone take care of the hatchlings. 

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Reptile curator Ian Recchio seems to have found a way, as a second clutch of 8 is expected to hatch in August 2015. Recchio has also found food items that appeal to the lizard. According to the Daily News, Recchio tried to entice the lizards with a variety of run of the mill fruit, such as grapes, bananas and papayas. But what the lizards seemed to really relish were figs, and specifically three types of figs that can be found around the botanical garden in the zoo. This diet got the lizards to breed and enabled him to get a breeding program going for this shy and threatened arboreal lizard. In the wild, the lizard eats pandan fruit and other tropical fruits, making it unique in the world of Varanus lizards. It is primarily a fruit eater. 

Recchio is currently feeding the hatchlings a diet of snails, blue crabs, and catfish, as well as moth caterpillars. Recchio is currently working on a peer reviewed scientific paper on the Gray’s monitor lizard. 

Called butaan in the Philippines, the Gray’s monitor lizard is one of three species of Philippine monitor lizard that feeds almost entirely on fruit. Studies in the Philippines have shown that these lizards use spatial mapping to remember where fruit trees that they rely on for food are located and can find these trees two to three hillsides away. The researchers have also studied the dispersal of fruit seeds as these animals move about the forest floor, releasing their droppings. 

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