Caldwell Zoo working to get Texas horned lizards off the threatened list

One hatchling at a time
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Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 3:39 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2022 at 10:43 AM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Bet you didn’t know — Texas has a state reptile, and has since 1993.

But, the population of the Texas Horned Lizard is threatened.

As KLTV 7′s Willie Downs shows us – there was reason to celebrate at Caldwell Zoo today.

“It’s very fulfilling to put some on the ground and to give back something and see a success in an animal that has really been a Texas icon for many, many years,” said the Supervisor of Reptiles at Caldwell Zoo, William Garvin.

Late Wednesday night, a female Texas Horned Lizard at Caldwell Zoo in Tyler laid a clutch of 29 eggs as part of a conservation program.

In 1993, the Texas Horned Lizard became the state reptile, better known to many as a “horny toad”. Afterwards, they did some surveys and realized the lizard was disappearing from many parts of the state due to changes in habitat and diet.

“All the people of the older generation have stories that they’ll tell of, ‘when I was a kid they were running around everywhere, and we haven’t seen one in 20 years, or 30 years,’ and that’s what we’re trying to combat,” Garvin says.

For more than ten years, the Texas Horned Lizard Coalition, including the Texas Parks and Wildlife and Caldwell Zoo among other Texas zoos and organizations, have been working together to bring the horned lizards back to their former habitats.

Caldwell Zoo has been participating in the conservation effort for three years. Last year, they brought in a gravid female with eggs, and they were able to hatch the eggs and release the hatchlings. This year is the first time the zoo has paired up male and female horned lizards together, bred them, and had them lay eggs that went into the incubator.

“Hopefully, we will be able to complete the entire process here in house this time and we will be able to continue to contribute, like I said, to releasing these hatchlings,” Garvin says.

The hatchlings are released around Llano, Texas in a wildlife management area owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife. For the first time, last year they found hatchlings that were not a part of the release program. This means some of the hatchlings that were previously released grew up, had eggs and had hatchlings of their own.

“We’re just excited to contribute once again,” Garvin said. “Hopefully if we can put these hatchlings with the other zoos that are contributing to the program as well then we will have added, I think close to a thousand hatchlings in the last three years to this wildlife management area.”

The eggs will hatch around the beginning of August and then Caldwell Zoo will raise them for about a month to give them a headstart in life before releasing them into the wild.

Caldwell Zoo working to get Texas Horned Lizards off the threatened list

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