However, if you are somewhat experienced with lizards and you want a reasonably sized animal, of calm temperment and only moderate care requirements, one group to consider is the Plated lizards in the genus Gerrhosaurus. The most commonly available animal is the Tawny or Sudan Plated lizard, Gerrhosaurus major. Sudan Plated lizards reach a snout-vent length of about nine inches, with about that much more in tail. They are solid-bodied animals with smaller limbs than iguanas, giving them a less "leggy" appearance. In overall shape they most closely resemble skinks, but Plated lizards have a very rough set of scales, giving them their common name. In addition, they have deep grooves running the length of the body low on their sides. This groove contains skin that is not covered with plated scales, allowing the grooves to function as "expansion joints" when breathing (or in very fat animals!).
Plated lizards are shy by nature, but can be accustomed to the presence of people if handled carefully and routinely. They eventually become relatively handleable, as lizards go. Even when threatened they rarely bite, preferring to use their plated tail as a whip. Given the size of the lizard and the spiny scales on the tail, this is a very effective defensive - it can hurt quite a bit!
In the wild Plated lizards are found in semi-arid areas of southern Africa. They utilize burrows, termite mounds and the like to avoid the sun, and captive set-ups should provide a retreat of some type for the animal. As these animals are relatively large, they require a good-sized enclosure. The larger the area, the better the animal will adjust to captivity. For one adult lizard, a two foot by three foot enclosure seems to be a minimum, with more space required for more animals. Some type of heavy, darkened burrow or hiding area is essential, as I said before. Our set-up uses a shattered ceramic drainage pipe of about a foot diameter that has been split lengthwise and laid down with only one open end, creating a cave. Localized heating through spotlights is appropriate for Plated lizards, as they will bask under such lights. If pairs are kept, a box or area for depositing eggs is necessary also.
Plated lizards are omnivorous feeders. Insects such as crickets, mealworms, mealworm beetles, and waxworms are eaten readily, as are pinky mice. Earthworms seem to be a favorite - the lizard will grab the worm by one end, whip it from side to side, and then gulp it down. Fruits are also devoured quickly - banana, strawberry, cantaloupe, peach, apple, and tomato are all accepted. Occasional vitamim supplements and calcium should be provided, especially to animals believed to be carrying eggs.
Unfortunately not very many people are breeding Plated lizards. Most of the animals available will be wild-caught individuals. Captive breeding has been accomplished, however. Eggs are laid, and seem to take about three to four months to hatch after incubation at 86 degrees F. (30 degrees C.). Hatchlings should be handled as the adults, but provide extra vitamin and calcium supplements to aid in growth.
All in all, Plated lizards are interesting, enjoyable and relatively easy animals to keep, provided that you can give them the proper amount of room and care. They are very manageable and can be handled more readily than most lizards. Although they are not colorful or especially attractive lizards, they more than make up for this in terms of personality and accessibility. I recommend them wholeheartedly.
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