Creature Feature: Eastern Glass Lizard

Eastern Glass Lizard (aka Legless Lizard)

Ophisaurus ventralis

Reptiles Alive Name: “Ophisaurus”

Hissstory: Ophisaurus was transferred to us in 2005 from the Virginia Living Museum.


RA Diet: Ophisaurus munches on crickets, roaches, earthworms, and super worms.

Natural Diet: Glass lizards enjoy insects, spiders,  small snakes and lizards. They especially love grasshoppers.

Size: Legless lizards can grow 24 – 36 inches long.

Range: Southeastern United States as far north as southeastern Virginia.

Habitat: Legless lizards like to hide in sandy soil in pine forests and mixed hard wood & pine forests.

Lifespan: Glass lizards can live over 10 years.

Reproduction: A female glass lizard will lay 8-17 eggs from June to August.  She will coil around the eggs and hangs out with them until they hatch about 2 months later.

Conservation: Glass lizards are classified as a “State Endangered Species” in Virginia.  This is because they are only found in one small part of southeastern Virginia and the entire population could be wiped out if their habitat there was altered.

Cool Facts: Although the glass lizard has no legs, it is a lizard – not a snake!  Unlike snakes, glass lizards have  eyelids and ears.   They also have the ability to detach their long tail in case they are attacked.  Their tail will regenerate as long as they can find enough food.  Snakes do not have the ability to regrow a lost tail.  Neither do humans.  Some scientists are studying lizards to try and find the secret behind their ability to regenerate so doctors can help people who have been hurt.

Creature Feature: Green Iguana

Green Iguana

Iguana iguana

Reptiles Alive Name: Fritz & Juan Amigo

Hisstory: Fritz is leasing a room with us as his owner, our curator Jennifer, likes having him at work better than having him at home.  Juan Amigo was left at the Alexandria Animal Shelter and we adopted him in April 2010.

Reptiles Alive Diet: Greens, vegetables, some fruit and a special zoo food made for iguanas.fritzheadspines

Natural Diet: Leaves, flowers, and fruit.

Range: Mexico, Central and South America. Introduced into Florida and Hawaii.

Habitat: The canopy of tropical rain forests is the normal habitat of iguanas, but they can also be found in urban areas around homes and hotels.

Size: These huge lizards grow 5-7 feet long from nose to tail and can weigh up to 18 pounds.

Lifespan: Iguanas often live over 20 years.

Reproduction: A female iguana will lay 12-40 eggs buried in the forest floor.  The eggs take 90-120 days to incubate. Babies spend the first part of their life in the under story. They will climb up to the canopy as they grow bigger.

Conservation: Iguanas face threats from the loss of habitat, the pet trade, and they are sometimes hunted for food.

You should know: Iguanas are commonly kept as pets, but most pet iguanas either die from improper care or are abandoned when they get large. Many pet stores buy iguanas bred in “puppy mill” conditions, and sell them for low prices to unsuspecting buyers and without the proper equipment. (Proper iguana housing costs over 500 dollars.) Iguanas have sharp teeth, a strong bite, sharp claws, and do NOT make good pets, especially for children. Thousands are euthanized annualy because proper homes cannot be found for them.

Cool Facts: Iguanas have a big flap of skin under their chin called a dewlap. They communicate to each other by lowering their dewlap and bobbing their head up and down. When threatened, iguanas can whip their spiky tail like a dinosaur. If that doesn’t work, they will leap out of the tall trees and dive into a river below.  They tuck their legs against their bodies and swim like crocodiles.

Creature Feature: Leopard Gecko

Leopard Gecko

Eublepharis macularis

Reptiles Alive Name: “Larry”


Hisssstory: Larry came to live at Reptiles Alive in April of 2004.  He was already about 5 years old when his owner decided he didn’t want a gecko as a pet anymore.

RA Diet: Larry loves crickets and meal worms.

Natural Diet: In the wild, leopard geckos will eat just about any moving creature that is smaller than themselves, including: insects, spiders, snails, and scorpions.

Range: Northwestern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.

Habitat: Leopard geckos live in some of the hottest, driest deserts on earth, so they spend much of their time in cool underground burrows.

Size: Leopard geckos can grow 6 to 8 inches long.

Lifespan: Leopard geckos can live 10-20 years or more.

Reproduction: Mating takes place during the rainy season. A female will lay two eggs at a time, but can lay several clutches a year. She can even store sperm from one mating for later.

Conservation: Leopard geckos are commonly sold in the United States as pets.  They are easier to care for than most other reptile species, but they still have special requirements to stay healthy in captivity.  Before getting a pet, whether it is a dog or a gecko, be sure you have done enough research to know how to care for your pet for its entire life.

Cool Facts: Leopard geckos store fat in their tail so they can survive for months without food or water.  Camels, another desert creature, use a similar survival strategy by storing fat in their humps.

Creature Feature: Nile Monitor Lizard

Nile Monitor Lizard

Varanus niloticus

Reptiles Alive Name: “Logan”nile_monitor

Hissstory: On September 2, 2000, a person having breakfast looked out their window and saw a “Komodo Dragon” hanging on their bird feeder.  He called the Wildlife Center of Virginia and explained the situation.  The Wildlife Center was able to capture the dragon, which turned out to be an escaped or abandoned African Nile monitor lizard.  The Wildlife Center called us, and we agreed to provide the monitor lizard with a home.

RA Diet: Logan loves to eat dead mice, roaches, crickets, and sometimes, cooked chicken eggs.

Natural Diet: These huge, carnivorous lizards eat just about anything!  Insects, eggs (including crocodile eggs), snakes, rodents, other lizards, birds, and even baby crocodiles can all be dinner for a Nile monitor lizards.

Range: Most of Africa including northern Egypt to Sudan and south to South Africa.

Habitat: If there is a river or lake or other water source, and you are in Africa, you are probably in Nile monitor habitat.

Size: Nile monitors are one of the largest lizards in the world.  They can grow 5-7 feet long. The record is 8 feet long.

Life span: Monitors can live over 20 years.

Reproduction: Nile monitors lay 10-60 eggs in a nest they dug in the ground. They especially like making nests inside of termite mounds. The eggs will incubate around 9-10 months. When they hatch, Baby monitors are only 6-8 inches long, but they will grow to 20 inches in a year.

Conservation: Threats include habitat loss,  and poaching for bush meat and the skin trade. Nile monitors are protected under CITES Appendix II.

There are several large populations of these lizards throughout Florida. People illegally released them into the wild after they were no longer wanted as pets. Nile monitors eat nearly any animal, making them a threat to native American wildlife. There are no natural predators for them in the United States. Current evidence suggests that total eradication of this species from Florida is no longer feasible and the population may be spreading!

Cool Facts: Scientists have found out recently that female Nile monitors often come back to their nests when the babies are beginning to hatch. She will help the babies by gently digging the eggs and hatchlings out of the ground.