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Ariano, D. 2006. The Guatemalan beaded lizard: Endangered inhabitant of a unique ecosystem. Iguana 13(3): 178-183.

Ariano, D. 2006. The Guatemalan beaded lizard: Endangered inhabitant of a unique ecosystem. Iguana 13(3): 178-183.

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Published by dariano
Describes the conservation status of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti in the semiarid region of the Motagua valley in Guatemala and also discuss the conservation projects has been made.
Describes the conservation status of the Guatemalan Beaded Lizard Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti in the semiarid region of the Motagua valley in Guatemala and also discuss the conservation projects has been made.

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Published by: dariano on Jan 23, 2009
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05/10/2014

 
178
IGUANA VOLUME 13, NUMBER 3 SEPTEMBER 2006ARIANO-SÁNCHEZ
Guatemalan Beaded Lizards (
Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti 
) are endemic to the semiarid Motagua Valley in Guatemala.
   T   O   M   M   Y   O   W   E   N   S ,   S   A   N   D   I   E   G   O   Z   O   O
 
T
he semiarid Motagua Valley in Guatemala is one of themost endangered and unique ecosystems in the world. Thisregion receives the lowest average rainfall in Central America (ca.500 mm) and is characterized by many endemic species. Thisregion once occupied about 200,000 ha, most of which is now a heterogeneous landscape of crops, grasslands, thornscrub, andvery dry deciduous forest remnants. The latter are home to thevery rarely encountered endemic Guatemalan Beaded Lizard(
Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti 
).
Natural History 
The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard, which (in conjunction with
H.h. alvarezi 
) may actually represent a distinct species, is restrictedto forest remnants in the Motagua Valley. The Beaded Lizardsand Gila Monsters (
H. suspectum 
) comprisethe Helodermatidae,a unique family of lizards with venom glands. Although the sub-species
H. h. charlesbogerti 
 was described in 1988, it had notbeen studied until very recently.This species reduces its activity drastically during the dry season (December to May), when individuals remain almostconstantly concealed in subterranean shelters that provide pro-tection from extreme temperatures and desiccation. Suitableshelters are limited resources in the remaining forests and may limit population size. Recent estimates, based on average home-range sizes of this and other subspecies and on remaining avail-able habitat, suggest that only 200–250 individuals remain inthe wild.Only 24,000 ha of suitable habitat remain, and these arecomprised of patches ranging in size from < 1 ha to around1,500 ha. If only those patches of > 100 ha are considered, thepotential distribution of these lizards is reduced to 17,000 ha.This area comprises the localities of Cabañas, Usumatlán, andGualán in the Zacapa Department, and El Jicaro in the ElProgreso Department, in the semiarid region of the MotaguaValley in Guatemala.
Conservation Status
The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard is almost certainly the mostendangered species in Guatemala. It is listed in CITES Appendix II and as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened species. The greatest threats to its continued exis-tence are agricultural practices not compatible with conserva-
The Guatemalan Beaded Lizard:Endangered Inhabitant of aUnique Ecosystem
Daniel Ariano-Sánchez
Director, Research & Conservation ProjectsZootropic OrganizationCiudad Guatemala, Guatemaladariano@zootropic.comPhotographs by the author except where indicated.IGUANA VOLUME 13, NUMBER 3 SEPTEMBER 2006
179
GUATEMALAN BEADED LIZARD
 A female Guatemalan Beaded Lizard (
Heloderma horridum charles- bogerti 
) in the wild.
 
tion, illegal extraction for local and international collectors, andpersecution by local people, who consider it to be dangerous.From 1994–2000, an estimated 30 animals were illegally col-lected, and, from 2000–2001, local people at only one locality killed 11 lizards. Another factor that may have had a negative impact on wild populations of 
H. h. charlesbogerti 
 was Hurricane Mitch inNovember 1998. Vast zones of the most arid portions of theMotagua Valley were flooded that year, causing considerabledamage to the human population and to the wildlife of theregion. Late October-early November is the beginning of theegg-laying season for Beaded Lizards, and the eggs are known tobe very sensitive to humidity. A number of clutches may wellhave been lost or failed to hatch because of floods.Unfortunately, no baseline data existed at that time, so theimpact on wild populations cannot be evaluated.
Conservation Efforts
Since the initiation of intensive studies in 2002, conservationefforts have increased, in part because of an increased publicawareness regarding the threatened status of the species. Theseefforts have been led by a local NGO, “Zootropic.” The pro-gram is constituted of four basic elements: (1) education, (2)applied scientific research, (3) habitat conservation, and (4)development of conservation policies for this species. Researchhas focused on determining distribution, the nature and causeof threats, the basic biology of the species, movement patterns,shelter use and their availability as a limiting resource, and char-acterization of venom. The education program has been ongo-ing since mid-2003 in localities where this species occurs and incoordination with local authorities and local partners of Zootropic. The habitat conservation component has twoapproaches: (1) conservation of private lands by commitment of owners to preserve forest remnants and (2) an official declara-tion of municipal, communal, and private natural reserves as
180
IGUANA VOLUME 13, NUMBER 3 SEPTEMBER 2006ARIANO-SÁNCHEZ
Guatemalan Beaded Lizards (
Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti 
)emerging from and resting in subterranean shelters.
   L .   M   E   L   E   N   D   E   Z ,   Z   O   O   T   R   O   P   I   C
Land-use changes within the distribution of 
Heloderma horridum charlesbogerti 
: Changes are primarily attributable to production of com-mercial crops like melon (top) and subsistence crops like corn (bottom).
   L .   M   E   L   E   N   D   E   Z ,   Z   O   O   T   R   O   P   I   C

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