Nashville Zoo’s Herpetology team is celebrating the half-birthdays of four Central American Giant Galliwasp (Diploglossus monotropis) born in August of 2016, marking the first hatching in over 10 years at the Zoo. Nashville Zoo is the only zoo in the United States to have successfully bred this rare species.
Our female galliwasp (pronounced “GALL-ee-wasp”) made a nest chamber underground to coil around her 4 eggs to instinctually protect them from predators. She did not emerge from the chamber for food or water for more than two months.
If the nesting chamber is disturbed in any way, the female will destroy the eggs to prevent predators from getting them. “This makes checking on the condition of the eggs extremely challenging,” said Herpetology Keeper Matt Martino. “Because we couldn’t risk checking on the female or the eggs, we patiently watched for any signs of life - either babies emerging from the nest or movement from the adult female. It was an exciting relief to see the hatchlings and mother start emerging after more than two months of waiting.”
This species is rarely seen in the wild and extremely uncommon in Zoo collections because captive breeding has proven to be extremely difficult for this species and successful breeding techniques are still being developed. However, Nashville Zoo staff may have finally broken the code for reliably reproducing Central American Giant Galliwasps. The Zoo’s herpetology team is continually learning and researching the best husbandry and breeding practices to increase zoo populations and are working towards conservation initiatives for several galliwasp species facing extinction in the wild.