Snakelike lizard slithers into New Plymouth zoo

A new creature has moved in at Brooklands Zoo, and she looks like a bit of a snake.

But looks can be deceiving and Marcella is actually a scheltopusik, also known as a European legless lizard.

On close inspection the female scheltopusik has two very tiny stubs of legs at the base of her tail.

And unlike a snake, she also has eyelids and earholes.

Scheltopusik usually eat insects, but the New Plymouth zookeepers have discovered Marcella likes her veggies, especially mashed up fresh peas.

An Instragram video shows just how much these lizards look like snakes

Marcella’s parents came from Amsterdam to Wellington Zoo, where she was found as an egg in November 2017.

She hatched on 22 January last year and now that Brooklands Zoo is her home she will be meeting the public at her new habitat this weekend.

Marcella is the second new species to make a home at Brooklands Zoo this year, after the successful introduction of two red-rumped agouti, large South American rodents, in February.

NPDC External Relations Manager Jacqueline Baker said Marcella will join other animals to teach the kids about the awesome wonders of nature.

“As well as keeping Marcella properly fed and housed, zookeepers do an amazing job of enriching the lives of all our animals through activities and changes to their habitats.  This keeps them mentally and physically healthy,” Baker says.

Scheltopusik factfile:
* Scheltopusik (Pseudopus apodus) are native from mainland Europe through to Central Asia and their name comes from the Russian for “yellow belly”.
* They are solitary and live in scrubby vegetation, rocky outcrops and sparse woodland.
* They like a dry climate but will come after the rain to hunt for snails and slugs. Their main diet is insects but they also eat eggs, very small mammals and birds.
* They can grow from about 15cm long when they hatch up to 1.35 metres in length as adults. 
* Females lay eggs and when they hatch after around 50 days.
* Scheltopusik have a unique lateral groove that runs down each side of its body.
* Like other lizards it has the ability to shed its tail if under threat, but it prefers to twist, hiss and bite to defend itself.