Originally Published: February 20, 2013 10 p.m.
He was found floating down a river on a piece of wood and was rescued by a kind soul. This is the story of Moses - Moses the Gila monster.
The story is true. Moses the Gila monster was rescued from the Salt River in Phoenix after a flood. Moses arrived at the Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary in Prescott in 1993, which means he's had one of the longest tenancies at the zoo.
Gila monsters are the largest lizards in the U.S., growing as long as two feet. They have bead-like scales that come in black, pink, orange and yellow. They live in the deserts of Southern Arizona and Northwestern Mexico.
Gila monsters are one of only a few venomous lizards in the world. They possess neurotoxic venom that attacks the nervous system. The venom comes from venom glands in the lizard's lower jaw. Instead of injecting their venom into victims like snakes, Gila monsters "chew" the venom in through the wound. Although bites are painful, there is no record of a human dying of a Gila monster bite.
Scientists believe one component in Gila monster venom may actually help regulate insulin in people with diabetes.
Despite the name, Gila monsters tend to avoid humans and large animals. They are rather lethargic and they spend most of their time underground. They are not great runners. They eat mostly eggs and small mammals, but their diet also can include small reptiles and amphibians.
Gila monsters are protected by Arizona law and are listed as threatened because of habitat loss.
You can come visit Moses and all the reptiles at Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and children can learn about all the animals at Spring Zoo Camp March 11-15.
For more information about visiting HPZS or any of the sanctuary programs, go online to heritageparkzoo.org or call 778-4242. Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary is located at 1403 Heritage Park Road off of Willow Creek Road.
The Heritage Park Zoological Sanctuary provides monthly columns for the Courier about its residents.
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