Species group: Iguanas
Other common names: Collared Tree Runner, Harlequin Racerunner
Scientific name: Plica plica
The basics: The Collared Tree Lizard is found in northeastern Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam; 8 related species inhabit other parts of Latin America.
This well named-lizard spends most of its time on large tree trunks, descending to ground only to deposit eggs. It has been found on trunks 50 feet above-ground, and may climb higher.
Tree Lizards are most abundant in rainforests, but may also be found in cut-over thickets and secondary forests and on tree plantations.
Appeaance / health: The Collared Tree Lizard ranges from 7-16 inches in length, and has a flattened body plan to accommodate its tree-trunk-hugging lifestyle. Their bodies range from yellowish-green through darker-green in color and are liberally-decorated with dark bands and other irregular markings. Small spines and a black collar adorn the neck.
Temperament: Shy and ever-alert, Collared Tree Lizards are strictly “hands-off” pets that are best observed but left otherwise undisturbed.
Housing: Shy and arboreal, Collared Tree Lizards should be kept in custom-made cages or large high-style terrariums that are vertically oriented and well-stocked with cork bark rolls, thick upright branches and sturdy plants. A single adult requires an enclosure at least 3 x 3 x 4 feet in size, but preferably larger. Moist coco-husk and sphagnum moss, with a covering of dead leaves, serves well as a substrate. A large water bowl is essential.
Collared Tree Lizards fare best when afforded a temperature gradient of 72-82 F and a basking temperature of 88-90 F. UVB exposure is essential. Humidity should kept high – to 70% or above.
Collared Tree Lizards are easily stressed, so quick spot cleaning should be used to maintain cage hygiene. Humidity and temperature levels must be monitored carefully, as they fare poorly in hot, dry environments. In dry homes, a reptile humidifier will assist in maintaining the conditions they favor.
Diet: Some field studies indicate that ants form the bulk of the natural diet, but captives do well when supplied a wide variety of insects supplemented with powdered calcium and vitamins. Roaches, crickets, silkworms, hornworms, locusts, calci-worms, butterworms, lab-reared houseflies and other commercially-available insects should be offered. A diet comprised of crickets and mealworms alone, even if powdered with supplements, is not adequate and will lead to your pet’s early demise.
Breeding: A single male can be housed with a female, but they must be watched carefully. Clutches contain 3-8 eggs, which are deposited below moist leaf litter. The eggs may be incubated in moist vermiculite at 82 F for 80-100 days. Wild females produce at least 2 clutches yearly, captives may reproduce more frequently.
Written by Frank Indiviglio