Updated: Jan 20, 2021
A La Gomera Giant Lizard is looking directly at you. Find the original here.
Status: CRITICALLY ENDANGERED
Population: 90 wild individuals and 44 individuals raised in captivity (2004), 134 individuals, INCREASING
Within the Canary Islands near Spain, the once thought to be extinct La Gomera Giant Lizard, Gallotia bravoana, lives on less than one hectare (<0.01 sq km or <0.004 sq mi) of the island of La Gomera. Once roaming the entire island, this species is now restricted to dry cliffs with scattered vegetation in the shrubland areas. The La Gomera Giant Lizards are diurnal animals that spend most of their days from mid-mornings to afternoons foraging and basking in the sunlight. Although sub-adults may consume some insect larvae, the species is generally considered herbivorous.
They possess a blackish-brown back covered with black, smooth and abnormal scales. Also, two lines of small blue spots run along the side with their underbellies appearing ivory white. They can weigh up to half a kilogram (1.1 lbs) and vary in length from 29.5 to 49 cm (11.6 to 19 in) with a snout vent length from 13.5 to 19 cm (5.3 to 7.5 in). Males have larger heads and white throats, but the back of females’ legs are browner. In contrast, juveniles retain a mix of brownish-shades and variation of blue lines on their backs with green tones on their underbellies.
The largest threat to the La Gomera Giant Lizard remains predation by the feral cats and some feral rats. Due to their slow walking, feral cats can easily prey and consume on them, and feral rats endanger the species by eating their eggs. Additionally, hunting and overgrazing by domestic animals helped contribute to a decline within the species. To counter such trends, the IUCN recommends educating local people, conducting more surveys, and regulating the cat population within proximity to their site. Currently, a captive breeding program is aiding in recuperating and increasing the population, but this alone will not be enough to save this species.
Written by — Edward Keenan
To attract females, males inflate their throats and bob their heads up and down
The females lay clutches annually of 3-7 eggs
Less than 50 members are adults and most populations are severely fragmented, classifying them critically endangered
In June of 1999, the lizards were documented and declared to be still extant as scientists labelled them extinct due to the lack of sightings
How to Help
Visit the Canary Islands and explore them, Island of La Gomera, to see the beauty and the special species like the La Gomera Giant Lizard which should be preserved.
Research about the LIFE projects that are currently working on a recovery plan for the La Gomera Giant Lizards and contact them to show your support.