Департамент культуры The Mexican gila was the first cub born in Moscow zoo in the new year

The Mexican gila was the first cub born in Moscow zoo in the new year

28.01.2019

A rare North-American reptile was born on January 1. The staff of the herpetology department managed to create optimal conditions not only for the content, but also for the breeding of these lizards. However the last offspring was three years ago, since the reproduction of this species in captivity is related to a number of serious difficulties.

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Now the baby of the gila is a little less than a month. Its weight is 20g, but it is already learning to hunt actively: first, its prey were crickets, then the rodents were added to the diet of a small gila. Up to 6 years the lizard will continue to grow, it will reach puberty approximately the same age.

The Mexican gila, whose second name is Escorpion or Tola-hini, is listed in the International Red Book and the CITES Convention on International trade, and the European program for this species’ conservation is also under way. The number of gilas in nature is relatively stable, but in recent years it has been steadily decreasing – primarily due to the destruction of the natural habitat of these animals. In nature, the gila can be found on the coast of the Gulf of California in western and southwestern Mexico, as well as in Guatemala. The reptile prefers dry stony areas, dry riverbeds and woodlands. Most of the time the gila spends in deep burrows, which it usually plucks itself or occupies burrows dug out by other animals. It is noteworthy that in case of danger, it may not come to the surface and lie motionless for several days. The gila usually searches food after dusk or early in the morning. Snakes, small rodents, other lizards, birds and bird eggs become its prey. An unusual feature of this reptile is that fat reserves are accumulated in the tail area.

The Mexican gila has a characteristic appearance. Adults can reach up to 90cm in length and their weight can be more than 4.5 kg. The thick lizard skin is colored dark, and there are clearly marked spots and stripes of yellow tones. The back is covered with scales of different sizes, the strong paws have sharp claws, which the gila tears prey or digs the ground with. The reptile got its name because of one curious peculiarity: its lower teeth are poisonous – the poison is produced by the salivary glands located under the lower jaw.

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The content of the gilas in captivity is associated with a number of difficulties and requires a lot of experience from caring for them employees. So, annually the reptiles need wintering - a special period that they spend in a state resembling hibernation. The gilas are specially prepared for wintering: the indoor temperature is gradually reduced, the animals are given less and less food. Wintering takes place at a temperature of 12-14 degrees and can last from 2 to 3 months. This is usually the period from December to February. It is noteworthy that the female’s pregnancy during the wintering period is not interrupted.

Hatched in the New Year cub of the Mexican gila is still in the non-exposure room, where the herpetologists observe its health and behavior. As soon as it gets stronger and grows up enough, it will be relocated to the exposition. It will be possible to see it in the «Terrarium» pavilion.