Safari Surgeons Save Spiny-tailed Lizard Run Over in Negev

Alert parks warden saw the injured beast and hastened it to hospital, where doctors fixed its skull and tail.

The spiny lizard being treated at the Safari hospital. The one with gloves is the doctor.
Tibor Jaeger

A large spiny-tailed lizard has been saved from a hideous death by an alert park warden and the veterinary team of the Ramat Gan Safari park's hospital, which realized the unfortunate uromastyx had been run over and needed urgent surgery.

The lizard may look threatening to some but in fact, it's an amiable, vegetarian reptile with a fondness for fruit.

Zoologically, it belongs to the species uromastyx aegyptia, which is quite common throughout the Middle East, including in Israel. Or was. 'Like most of the wild animals in Israel, it's in danger of extinction," mourned Safari spokeswoman Sagit Horowitz in conversation with Haaretz.

A park warden making the rounds in the arid sandy wastes of Nahal Tzin, a wadi in the Negev desert, saw the lizard some days ago and realized it was in trouble, she says. He caught it easily enough, given its injuries, and hastened to take it to the Safari's wild animal hospital, which treats about 3,500 cases a year.

He had what to heal from, this uromasytx, having suffered skull and tail fractures (see video of his treatment, which is not horrible at all). When he arrived, his body temperature was too low. First the doctors gave him a warm bath (shown in the video). Then they operated on his tail, fixing most of the damage but amputating a small portion (not shown).

Lizard has warm bath, tail is treated (not hard to watch) Safari Park, Shira Yitzhaki

"His situation is a lot better now. Wild animals can have extraordinary healing properties," says Horowitz says.

The Safari hospital marks its 10th anniversary this week, Horowitz says, noting two things – that it is a collaboration with the National Parks authority, and that people are welcome to bring it any injured wild animals they find, for free. Not stray cats or dogs. There are other places for that.