REVERSE THE RED SUCCESS STORY: Gaining Ground for Guatemalan Wildlife and Wild Places

It’s #ReverseTheRedDay and to commemorate the significance of this global awareness day, the OKC Zoo is sharing this special blog highlighting the successful work being done by one of the Zoo’s conservation partners, the Foundation for the Conservation of Endangered Species of Guatemala (FUNDESGUA).

What does it mean to “reverse the red”? The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity and provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, threats, and more that will help inform necessary conservation decisions surrounding animal, fungus, and plant species. Reverse the Red is a global movement that ignites strategic action and optimism to ensure the survival of species and ecosystems.

The Zoo joins its conservation partner, FUNDESGUA, in raising awareness for critically endangered species. Formed in 2013, by Oklahoma City Zoo’s Curator of Herpetology, Dr. Brad Lock, FUNDESGUA is dedicated to using science based-strategies embedded in local culture to guide everyday actions for successful conservation results. Two of their target species are the Guatemalan beaded lizard and the Campbell’s alligator lizard. Guests can see the new two-month-old Guatemalan beaded lizard hatchlings at the Zoo’s Herpetarium.

We are grateful to our guest contributors to this blog, Mónica Torres and Thomas Schrei, both conservationists and biologists with FUNDESGUA, for providing this project update on the important actions being taken to help conserve, protect and connect Guatemala’s land, people and wildlife.


Project Update: Conserving the Guatemalan beaded lizard

The Guatemalan beaded lizard is one of the most endangered species in the world, found only in the Motagua Valley in eastern Guatemala. This isolated dry valley creates the Motagua Valley Dry Forest ecosystem, where the beaded lizard is only one of several endemic plant and animal species.  The ecosystem has been almost completely wiped out due to urban development, intensive agriculture, and subsistence agriculture. Nonetheless, some remnants have remained. We conducted surveys that revealed large tracks of well-preserved habitat in an area overlooked by previous generations of conservationists. After confirming Guatemalan beaded lizards were in the area, a private nature reserve was established. This reserve is the largest and most intact for the Motagua Valley Dry Forest Ecosystem and the most important for the Guatemalan beaded lizard’s conservation and long-term survival.


  • FUNDESGUA is working to protect habitat by creating a network of protected areas to ensure long-term habitat conservation. We build awareness among local people to stop destructive hunting. We involve key stakeholders in land use decisions and habitat restoration. We also established an in situ captive breeding program to support the wild population.


  • Awareness programs are conducted in local schools to forge conservation values in the next generation. Capacity building is provided to our volunteers, thus empowering local youth to have habitat restoration impact. Workshops are organized with local landowners to jointly plan conservation actions in which they are the protagonists. We lead the declaration of protected areas with local wildlife authorities for the conservation of the Guatemalan beaded lizard and the Dry Forest Ecosystem.


  • Success is demonstrated with the discovery and protection of a new population of Guatemalan beaded lizards. This is reflected in the number of hectares, farms, and land owners joining us in habitat conservation management. This number continues to increase as we build a network of protected areas. Another indicator is the change in attitude of people towards beaded lizards, which transformed from being unknown/feared to becoming a local conservation icon.


  • FUNDESGUA plans to expand its network of private protected areas to cover as much habitat as possible. We will also continue to raise awareness among the local population since it is a new area of work and there is a need for more awareness building efforts. Finally, we are planning research to provide detailed information regarding the use of habitat, behavior, and reproduction of Guatemalan beaded lizards in high quality habitat.


The OKC Zoo proudly cares for Guatemalan beaded lizards and in February 2022 celebrated the first successful hatching of this species in the OKC Zoo’s history. This exciting addition marks the OKC Zoo as one of only two Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoos currently caring for and successfully breeding the Guatemalan beaded lizard.

Follow FUNDESGUA on Facebook and Instagram.


Posted by Candice Rennels at 16:41
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