The six beaded lizards breaking out of their eggs in the video above are part of an effort to help their species survive. Yes, they’re adorable—but they also bite. And are poisonous. But in the wild these lizards—cousins of the American Gila monster, and native to Mexico and northern Central America—are beset by poaching and habitat loss.
Zoos like the Columbus Zoo, in Columbus, Ohio, attempt to breed beaded lizards, but it’s not easy. These six eggs are the zoo’s first hatchlings this century, and it’s only the their second successful hatching of beaded lizards ever. The staff is understandably excited. Also wary.
Beaded lizard hatchlings are feisty and dangerous little buggers, thanks to their venom. While adults are a bit calmer, hatchlings are, well, not—so everyone handling them is well-gloved for protection to avoid getting bit. The little things are infamously ornery, known as the bulldogs of the lizards.
The hatchlings’ nursery is kept dark and warm—beaded lizards incubate for four months—and the staff tries to keep the hatchlings calm as they make their way out of their shells. This process is, apparently, very stressful, with some breaking free in a relatively quick 24 hours and others taking up to a week. Once all of the lizards are all out, and judged to be healthy, visitors to the zoo will be able to see and enjoy them. From a safe distance, of course.