The Giant Girdled Lizard (Cordylus giganteus), also known as the Sungazer, Giant Spiny-tailed Lizard or Giant Zonure, is the largest species of Girdled Lizard. They live in colonies and dig burrows into the silty soil of the grassland in South Africa. The name Sungazer comes from their habit of sitting at the burrow entrance and facing the sun. They are insectivores, but occasionally will eat small vertebrates. This species reproduces every other year, and only produce one or two offspring. The decline in numbers is a result of habitat destruction (conversion of the grassland to farmland) and illegal collecting for the great pet trade.
Giant Girdled Lizards are protected by spiny dorsal scales and the large spines that run along the back of the head. The tail is armed by whorls of large spines and is waved at predators that pursue it into a burrow. Adults are 15-18cm (5.9-7in) from the snout to the base of the tail. The back is yellow to dark brown and the sides are yellow. Males can be identified by the presence of enlarged scales on the forearm.
Captive bred Giant Girdled Lizards, usually juveniles, are occasionally imported from South Africa to the U. S. and command a very high price. They are long-lived, hardy captives, but rarely reproduce in captivity. Cordylus tropidosternum and Cordylus jonesii are occasionally marketed as “Dwarf Sungazers.”
Giant Girdled Lizard (Cordylus giganteus) (by Joachim S. Müller)