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SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Zoo’s project to bolster the population of Texas horned lizards, or “horny toads,” has been enjoying consistent success. Fifty Texas Horned Lizards that hatched this summer, some born on June 18, Texas Horned Lizard Day, have now been released into the wild.

Zoo ticket sales, donations, grants, and Texas Parks and Wildlife fund the Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project through the San Antonio Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research (CCR). Additionally, the Fort Worth Zoo and the Dallas Zoo work with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife on releases in wildlife management areas. It is through the Texas Horned Lizard Conservation Coalition that all organizations support each other and share information.

“This is our third release, and we’ve seen evidence after every effort that lizards are alive and thriving in the landscape,” said Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp, ​​director of the zoo’s Center for Conservation & Research. San Antonio. “What I love about this project is not only helping the Texas Horned Lizard, but also being able to provide this opportunity to others. We’ve had volunteers, landowners and naturalists come together joined us for this release, and seeing their participation and enthusiasm is priceless.

San Antonio Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research team releases Texas Horned Lizards into the wild. (San Antonio Zoo)

The San Antonio Zoo CCR keeps track of lizards released in the past. In the release project area, the team found lizard droppings (poo) in two different locations, where the 2020 and 2021 releases were also performed. The excrement was sent to Dr. Dean Williams at Texas Christian University for genetic analysis.

“Texas horned lizards are incredibly elusive,” said Dr. Andy Gluesenkamp. “It’s easier to find their droppings, which can tell us a lot about the individual. Prior to release, we document the genetics of each lizard, then connect GPS coordinates to each Texas Horned Lizard release site. Genotyping their droppings acts like a fingerprint and allows us to connect the results to our database, which then shows the lizard’s age and distance traveled.Finally, we will genotype the wild offspring and identify the lizards from the breeding zoo.

The San Antonio Zoo’s partnership with Chiron K9, known as the Texas Horned Lizard Detection Canine Network, allows them to use dogs trained with live horned lizards, droppings, eggs and shed skin so that they can find any sign of horned lizards on the ground.

“God Bless Texas – what an amazing week it has been for our beloved Texas Horned Lizard,” said Tim Morrow, President and CEO of the San Antonio Zoo. “Dr. Gluesenkamp and his team at the Center for Conservation & Research continue to work tirelessly on this project, and we are so proud to see their work making a difference to the Texas landscape. I hope you will all join us to congratulate our conservation team and cheer on all the excited toads released into the Texas wilderness this week.

For more resources to learn more about the Texas Horned Lizard Reintroduction Project and the work being done by the Center for Conservation and Research at the San Antonio Zoo, visit their site.

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