San Antonio Zoo Reaches New Milestone in Campaign to Conserve Texas Horned Lizards

click to enlarge Texas horned lizard hatchlings emerge from their eggs. - COURTESY OF SAN ANTONIO ZOO
Courtesy of San Antonio Zoo
Texas horned lizard hatchlings emerge from their eggs.
The latest clutch of eggs to hatch at the San Antonio Zoo's Center for Conservation and Research marks a new breakthrough for the organization's Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project.

While the lizards are far from the first of their species to hatch at the zoo, this latest bunch brings the total of captive-born horned lizards high enough that the zoo can conduct its first ever release of the reptiles into the wild.

This fall, the zoo plans to release 100 horned lizards into a suitable South Texas habitat, bolstering the survival of the State Reptile of Texas.

click to enlarge A group of young Texas horned lizards cluster together. - COURTESY OF SAN ANTONIO ZOO
Courtesy of San Antonio Zoo
A group of young Texas horned lizards cluster together.
After the release, though, the lizards won't be forgotten. The zoo will monitor them with a very special employee: a horned lizard detection canine.

That's right — a lizard-sniffing pup!

According to a statement from the zoo, the specially trained dog will cue handlers to the scent of "their shed skin, eggs and scat." In addition to monitoring the released lizards, the dog can help locate possible release sites and find lizards that can serve as founders for the captive breeding colony.

"I am proud of the work we are doing to bring back the beloved Texas horned lizard," Zoo President and CEO Tim Morrow said in a statement.

"While we have a multitude of global conservation projects, it’s especially rewarding to be able to secure a future for wildlife right here in our backyard," Morrow added.

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