1998 Northern caiman lizard

Breeding successes

Zoo Praha  |  15. 10. 2023

First ever to be bred

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

First ever to be bred

In the 1960s, reptile breeding in zoos was more the exception than the rule. With increasing knowledge of these creatures’ special needs, it was possible to breed them more often. Since the Nineties, Prague Zoo has been able to point to many notable successes. One of which was breeding northern caiman lizards in 1998. At the time, even how caiman lizards lived in the wild was shrouded in mystery, so not one methodology for breeding had been developed.

Photo: Archiv Prague Zoo

Northern caiman lizards are robust reptiles with patchy distribution throughout the vast territory of Amazonia. They lead a semi-arboreal and semi-aquatic lifestyle. Because they bask on branches overhanging water, they need a strong source of natural light and heat to live. Their dietary specialisation is terrestrial and aquatic snails. Their teeth and tongue have specially developed to be used to crush the snails’ shells and separate the fleshy parts from the sharp fragments. They lay their eggs in the nests of arboreal termites, which wall up the clutch, keeping them at the optimum temperature and humidity.

Photo: Miroslav Bobek, Prague Zoo

Even today it is not easy to simulate all the needs a northern caiman lizard has when in captivity. When Prague Zoo bred the first caiman lizard in the mid-1990s, it was twenty years ahead of the current development of terrarium breeding.

Photo: Vladimír Motyčka