XENAGAMA BATILIFERA

Habitat
The Xenagama species are found in Ethiopia and Somalia on high ground up to 2000m high! The landscape is covered with massive rocks, deep canyons, volcanic cones, golden savannahs and desert. Ethiopia and Somalia lay south of the Tropic of Cancer but yet only the lowlands in the west have a true tropical climate. The high altitude and the monsoon of the Indian ocean are influential on the Ethiopian weather. The average temperature in the lower tropical areaís is about 30 degrees celcius. In the mountains however it can be about 5 degrees celcius.

Description
Xenagama batilifera is small with a striking appearance. It is only 10 to 15 centimeters long and so a relatively small species. Most remarkable is the tail that starts out wide behind the hips but tapers after about 1,5 cm with a small 1cm point at the end. Itís small firm lizard with a brown base color with some brighter spots. The base color varies from a very light yellow brown to dark brown or a more reddish brown color. The animals have a relatively large head and that makes them capable of eating larger prey than youíd expect from such a tiny lizard. In captivity these animals can become quite tame but because of their size they will never be easy to handle as a bearded dragon for example. Make sure they have enough climbing opportunities and places for them to hide. The X. batilifera is either sitting still or running, there is nothing in between. During the day they will spend a lot of time basking under the heating spots keeping their eyes open so they can run away quickly at the first sign of danger. But in time they will get used to being surrounded by people and will become less nervous. At night they sleep high up on a branch in the enclosure, under a rock or other hiding place. The spiny tail will be facing the entrance to ward off predators. Males can display a bright blue color from the neck to their chest during mating season or to impress other males and claim their territory.

Housing
In my opinion bigger is always better. I kept my batiliferís in an enclosure that was 120 x 50 x 70 cm with a nice backwall dťcor with lots of climbing opportunities. An enclosure this size is suitable for 3 batiliferaís but I kept them in pairs. These animals can be kept in groups but they do need their own little territory inside the enclosure to prevent stress. I keep them in pairs so I keep a good eye on them. When keeping several animals in one enclosure make sure you check them all out on a regular bases. Dominance is not only expressed by aggressive behavior but can also cause an animal to stop eating and slowly fade away. So be on the lookout for this kind of behavior as these animals are very territorial. The enclosure is filled with flagstones up to 3 layers to create holes. Be sure to place them steady on the ground so the animals can never get trapped underneath them while digging. I also use other kind of natural rocks, branches for climbing and fake plants for attractiveness. Create enough hiding places, at least 1 per animal but preferably more and also many spots where they can bask and warm up. I used a UVB lamp as these animals absolutely love basking so having a good UVB lamp is very important for their health. On the ground I first tried to use woodchips (during quarantine) but later I used fine sand about 5 cm thick or more at several spots. The average temperature is about 28 degrees while under the basking spot it can go up to 35 or 45 degrees Celcius. By creating areaís with varying temperatureís they can regulate their own body temperature by basking or hiding when needed. As said before a good UVB light is necessary.

Diet
I mostly fed them mainly crickets and flies but also small grasshoppers, spiders, mealworm or wax moth and wax moth larve. I powder them every other meal with vitamins or calcium. I also always had some vegetables in the enclosure, mostly endive but also other green vegetables and seeds such as tropical bird seed and orange lentils. Though I never saw them eating this, they did eat dandelionís though. Water is always presented and available. Iíve seen my Xenagama drink many times and also licking drops from plants or rocks.

Breeding
Determining the sexe of these animals is relatively easy as only the males display blue colors around their necks and throats. Also femoral pores are only clearly visible with the males and are practically nonexistent with the females. The male displays obvious mating behavior such as heavy head bobbing and chasing the female with itís bright blue throat trying to bite her in the neck. Mating will follow. I kept my eggs in the Jaeger incubator and set it at 28/29 degrees. I kept the substrate as dry as possible en checked the eggs every 2 days. Whenever I saw an egg set in I would add a tiny bit of water. It is suspected that keeping the eggs in a very humid environment is not good for the eggs but there ie still no proof for this theory. It is also important to give the female some rest after laying the eggs and she will be literally emaciated. Keep her separate from the male for a few weeks and feed her a lot so she can regain her strength. The male will try to mate with her again as soon as she put her back in the cage with him. The first egg hatched after 44 days and with only being 2,5 cm long it was already an exact copy of itís parents. After they had all hatched I put the juveniles in a small cage of 40 x 30 x 30. I put some cork pices in it, a rock and an egg carton. As a substrate I used papers instead of stand to prevent obstipation as the little oneís tend to be very clumsy when eating. Just like their parents they either sit still or run around. They start eating the next day after they are born and are given small crickets and curl flies and chopped up endive. I also offered them a tiny bit of water, not too much as they can drown in the water bowl. I also sprinkled the cage once a day. From my own experience I can say juveniles need a lot of calcium when growing up and they also need UVB to strrenghten their bone structure. Otherwise they might end up deformed ot even die.

Conclusion
Xenagama batilifera are a very active lizard. Because of itís small size they are easy to keep incaptivity and will bring lots of joy to itís caretaker when being kept under the right circumstances. I am convinced that in the nearby future this lizard will be bred more often. So it might be wise to keep a registration of your animals to prevent inbreeding.


Literature

Auf der Suche nach Biberschwanzagamen (Xenagama). Eine Reise nach Somaliland - Alexander Roos
Keeping & Breeding the Dwarf Shield Tailed Agama ( Xenagama taylori). By Terry Mc Gleish
Xenagama taylori care. by Cristine Harney