COLUMN: Lizard’s tail can be used as a club

jpco 21-1-15 Animal Magic at Tilgate Nature Centre - Sudan Plated Lizzard (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150119-144013001
jpco 21-1-15 Animal Magic at Tilgate Nature Centre - Sudan Plated Lizzard (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150119-144013001

Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s popular, and less well-known animal residents.

This week we a take a look at the Sudan plated lizard (Gerrhosaurus major)

Sudan plated lizards are commonly found on savannahs and deserts of Eastern and Southern Africa.

They are covered in large scales giving them a rather prehistoric look. Their heavily scaled tails are used like a club when they are threatened, if that doesn’t work they are able to break off the tail and run for cover; over time they will grow a new tail.

They spend the night tucked away in burrows, which they often share with other animals such as dwarf mongoose and snakes. In the morning they will leave the relative safety of the burrows to bask and look for food.

As omnivores they will feed on plants, insects as well as other lizards and even mice.

The males are generally larger and have a brightly coloured throat which they use in their displays. Small clutches of 2 to 6 egg are buried in the sand, with the youngsters hatching after an incubation lasting about 3 months.

At the nature centre we have a pair of plated lizards.

They receive a diet of watercress, dandelion, Chinese leaf and other greens which we dust with vitamin and mineral supplements; in addition they are offered insects, pellets and the occasional small mouse as a treat. Their vivarium in the Discovery Room is shared with two other desert dwelling African reptiles - pancake tortoise and dab-tailed lizards.

Our African section is currently seeing a baby boom with young meerkats, striped grass mice and a gorgeous yellow mongoose all being born since Christmas.