Zoo Animals


Gila monster

Heloderma suspectum

The Detroit Zoo
The gila monster can be found inside the Holden Reptile Conservation Center, located near the middle of the Detroit Zoo. There, visitors can learn about the 80 different species (and approximately 240 individuals) of reptiles at the Zoo, one-fifth of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.


The gila monster is the largest lizard in the United States, and one of the few species of venomous lizard in the world. It has a stocky body with a large head and a short, fat tail. The skin consists of many round, bony scales, a feature that was common among dinosaurs but is unusual in today’s reptiles. The gila monster has striking bright pink and black coloration.


Fun Facts

  • Juveniles are able to consume more than 50 percent of their body weight at one time.

  • A synthetic version of a protein found in gila monster saliva is used as a treatment for diabetes in humans.