Caiman lizard

Dracaena guianensis

Fascinating Facts

  • Caiman lizards are semi-aquatic and will rest on tree branches above rivers. When threatened, they will drop from the branch into the water and swim away from danger. When further threatened they can deliver both a powerful bite from their strong jaws and a forceful blow from their muscular tail.
  • In addition to being excellent swimmers, they are also excellent climbers.
  • They have a forked tongue, which they use to help them locate prey.

Physical Characteristics

Adults grow to lengths of 2 – 4 feet and weigh between 3 – 6 pounds. They have green bodies and reddish-colored heads. Males and females are similar in appearance. They were named “caiman lizard” after the caiman crocodile, due to the crocodile-like scales on their backs, as well as their long flat tail, which helps them to swim. They have a clear third eyelid that they use like goggles while swimming.


Caiman lizards are found in the riparian zone of tropical forests in Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Peru. They feed primarily on snails, as well as clams, and have a powerful jaw that crushes the shells. Once they have extracted the meat, they will spit out the shells.

Social Behavior

After mating, the female will lay eggs in a hole she has dug from a riverbank. There is no parental care.

Status In The Wild

Not yet assessed by IUCN

Location in the Zoo

South American Tropical Rainforest and Aviary

Animals & Exhibits