Expatica news

El Hierro welcomes endangered giant lizard babies

27 August 2008

MADRID — Much to the joy of Canary Island conservationists, 53 baby reptiles of the endangered El Hierro giant lizard have been born in August.

The predominantly black-coloured reptile suffered a serious setback in January 2007, when rains and strong winds upset its natural habitat in the island of El Hierro in the Canary Islands, leading to the deaths of an estimated 182 giant lizards.

The reptile, which was long-believed extinct, has been fighting a losing battle against human encroachment and domestic pets introduced to El Hierro, such as cats. Some lizards found on the island are on robust and can measure 60 centimetres and weigh more than 400 grams. The giant lizards enjoy legal protection and are much larger than the common lizards found on El Hierro.

The birth of the baby lizards took place on 13 Aug and is the second group of a total of 92 lizards that have been born in captivity this year, according to a statement by the El Hierro municipality.

All of the recently hatched baby lizards are in good health and have been kept inside incubators at a special centre that monitors the reptiles’ population.

Five lost years
Poor weather experienced in 2007 meant "five hard years of work" was lost by conservationists.

Due to their small but growing numbers, the baby lizards’ arrival was welcome news for El Hierro’s head of environmental affairs, Claribel González.

"This news gives us hope that we can move ahead with the goals we set a few years ago regarding the revival of the giant lizard," she said. "They are born and raised in captivity and then reintroduced into their natural habitat."

A group of six lizards has already been returned to specially protected areas of the island in Vallehermoso. The aim of local conservationists is to monitor the unique species and ensure its survival.

[El Pais / Eugenia de la Torriente / Expatica]