Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Caiman lizard

Dracaena guianansis

Caiman lizards are large, colorful reptiles that get their name from the large scales on their backs that resemble the plates on a Caiman crocodile. They have a green body, red-orange head, short powerful limbs and a heavily muscular jaw and can grow up to 10 pounds in weight and up to four feet long!

Range & Habitat

Swampy or flooded woodland areas of Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.


Conservation Status: Least Concern

Before Caiman lizards were protected in the late 1990s, they were hunted for their skin, which was made into leather products, as well as for the pet trade. Their population is considered stable for now, although they face threats from pollution, deforestation, and habitat loss.


In the Wild - Invertebrates including snails, crawfish and freshwater clams, as well as the occasionalAmazon river turtle.

At the Zoo - Snails, shrimp, mice, ground turkey.

Life Span

In the Wild: Unknown
In Human Care: 8-12 years +

Fun Facts about the Caiman lizard

    Caiman lizards are both aquatic and terrestrial; spending time on land and in or near water. They are also excellent climbers, allowing them to bask on tree branches overhanging waterways.

    A third, clear eyelid acts like a “goggle” when underwater. They bask on low branches over water.  This allows them to quickly plunge into the water below to escape from predators.

    When it catches its prey, it crushes it with its teeth, spits out the broken shell pieces, and then eats the softer part of the prey.



Dallas World Aquarium (Ed.). (2021). Caiman Lizard. Retrieved January 04, 2021, from

Jacksonville Zoo (Ed.). (2020). Caiman Lizard. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from

San Francisco Zoo (Ed.). (2017). Caiman Lizard. Retrieved January 04, 2021, from

Smithsonian's National Zoo. (n.d.). Caiman Lizard. Retrieved December 29, 2020, from


Updated June 13, 2023
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