Lots of Lizards at the Zoo

Today the Virginia Zoo celebrates World Lizard Day with some facts and information about our own lizard collection from the Lead Reptile Keeper- Dennis McNamara.

“Currently the Zoo is home to 22 species of lizard. My favorite at the moment would be the Chinese crocodile lizards. They are semi-aquatic insectivores that come from China and Vietnam. They are small, but have big personality.  The males usually have a beautiful red color to them while the girls are a more muted color. They are livebearers and can produce 1-15 babies at a time.

The Mellers chameleons we have are also a favorite of mine. They are the largest chameleon in Africa; from Tanzania, Mozambique, and Malawi. They have a tongue that is 1.5-2 times the length of their body. These chameleons eat a variety of insects for us including superworms, roaches, and crickets as well as the occasional fuzzy mouse. We have produced lots of babies of this species and watching them grow up has been a great experience.


Chameleons don’t change color the way that most people think. If you observe our Mellers chameleons you can watch them change colors slightly. The main thing to look at is if they have spots. The spots are indicative of them feeling threatened or excited.  Chameleons, like most lizards like to work things out by looking big or colorful and avoiding conflict if possible. The color and pattern change is able to show others how they are feeling and let the others know if they want to breed, fight or flight. There are also a series of head bobs/shakes as well as “ear”  flapping that they do to communicate those ideas as well.

Monkey tailed skinks are the largest skink in the world. They come from the Solomon islands. They will sometimes live in family groups and will raise offspring. They are a livebearer and will have 1-2 offspring every other year. These lizards are herbivores. They live an arboreal life up in the trees.

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A new addition to our collection that will be exhibited in the new World of Reptiles is the green tree monitor. These beautiful emerald green arboreal lizards are native to New Guinea and several adjacent islands. They are egg layers with a clutch size of 2-6 eggs which hatch in 150-200 days. Another cool little gecko we have here are Williams dwarf geckos. These tiny geckos are critically endangered in their home range of Tanzania. These geckos live in pairs exclusively on the screw pine tree and are vulnerable to logging as well as the pet trade.  These guys are small. Adults are about 2 inches in length. The males are an electric blue color and the females are various shades of green. They are egg layers and lay multiple clutches of eggs a year. Each clutch consists of 1-2 eggs and they take approximately 60 days to hatch.”


Here are some more facts about other lizard species within the Zoo:
-Geckos are the only lizards that have vocal chords.
-There are many species of gecko that don’t possess eyelids.
-Lizards are found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.
-Some lizards can drop their tails to get away from potential predators. This is called caudal autonomy.
-Some lizards are live bearers and some are egg layers.

World of Reptiles is opening in Summer 2018. Keep checking the Virginia Zoo blog for updates and information as we get closer to opening. To donate and for more information CLICK HERE.