Haitian giant galliwasps first appeared in U.S. zoos in the 1980s, and by 1990 was listed by the AZA as a high priority for conservation work. Unfortunately, by the mid-1990s, there were no Haitian giant galliwasps remaining in zoos. In July 2000, Nashville Zoo’s Ectotherm Curator, Dale McGinnity, traveled to Haiti to collect a founder population of 19 adult Haitian giant galliwasps to initiate a breeding program and conservation initiative for the species.
The inability to successfully raise young giant galliwasps is the primary reason captive programs have failed in the past, but Nashville Zoo staff has developed protocols that have allowed them to raise over 300 offspring with a mortality rate of less than 4%. Many of these offspring have been sent to other zoos around the world to initiate more breeding and conservation programs. Today, the Zoo’s population of Haitian giant galliwasps is composed of 90% genetic diversity and serves as a genetic reserve colony. Eventually, the Zoo hopes to reintroduce the reserve colony of galliwasps to their native environment.
Research efforts at the Zoo have expanded what is known about galliwasps. Previously, the captive longevity of Haitian giant galliwasps was thought to be 11 years, but many of the founding members of Nashville Zoo’s breeding population are now 17+ years old. In addition, the Zoo’s successful husbandry protocols are being shared with other institutions.
In 2017, a Nashville Zoo keeper completed an AZA-approved studbook for Haitian giant galliwasps. Studbooks document the pedigree and demographic history of each animal within a managed population among AZA member institutions. The goal of an AZA studbook is to maintain 90% of the captive population’s genetic diversity for 100 years.