They’ve got some of the foulest breath of any animal in the Zoo. They’ve got a fearsome reputation, with folklore suggesting they can kill men with their breath alone, possess spiritual powers to cause untold sickness and can spit their venom and leap several metres in the air to attack ...and we’ve just hatched out four of them!
We’re talking about the unique Gila Monster.
Recently we welcomed four Gila Monster hatchlings, two males and two females at Taronga’s Reptile World. Our keepers got some great snaps of the adults mating, the eggs being incubated and also photographed the moment the little monsters started cracking out of their shells. Check out the gallery below.
Now, if the rumours are true, our reptile keepers went above the call of duty to get these pictures, but despite the species’ fearsome name they don’t live up to their reputation. They can’t jump metres into the air, they don’t spit, in fact they’re super lazy and live much of their life in burrows underground. No one has died from the bite of a Gila Monster since the early 1900s and there isn’t even an anti-venom developed for their bite because they pose little threat to humans because they’re so slow.
However, in 1952, Gila Monsters were the first venomous animals to be given legal protection under the Arizona and Nevada state law in the USA because they were being hunted and killed by humans out of fear.
Our reptile keepers had been excitedly anticipating the hatchings during the 150 day incubation period . The Gila Monster parents have lived at Taronga since 1992, and it’s thought they’re coming to the end of their breeding age, so the four newcomers are vital for future breeding within our region.
For now the little monsters will be cared for in a room for venomous reptiles behind the scenes, but their parents, with their spectacular orange and black colouring and bead-like scales can be seen at Taronga’s Reptile World.
Gila Monsters have also helped human medicine with their saliva which contains their venom being used as a model to develop synthetic treatments for some forms of diabetes.