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Mali Uromastyx Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Mali uromastyx
Scientific Name:Uromastyx maliensis
Life Span:12 to 20 years in captivity
Size:10 to 15 inches in total length
Habitat:Desert areas
Country of Origin:Mali

Physical Description

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The Mali uromastyx is a desert lizard that has found its way in the pet trade in the 1990s. It is a hardy lizard and is also inexpensive, making it one of the favorite reptile species of hobbyists. The Mali uromastyx is the most abundant species found in captivity. 

This hardy creature is native to Mali, Africa. Most of the uromastyx species live in arid, hot, and broken scrublands with rocky outcrops coming from stone, clay, and sandy soil. In these areas, temperatures can reach more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months. Surface temperatures can also drop as much as 32 degrees Fahrenheit during cold months. 

But the Mali uromastyx has expertly adapted to this dramatic temperature changes by digging deep lairs, usually a foot deep and more than three meters long.  It can dig through even soils that are densely-packed.

The adult Mali uromastyx can be as large as 11 to 15 inches in length from mouth to tail with an average weight of 7 to 15 ounces. During the juvenile stage, the Mali uromastyx has a camouflage body pattern with charcoal-colored spots against a gray background. When raised in their natural habitat, female Mali uromastyx can retain this lovely and rugged color. But when cared for in captivity, male and female lizards can have blackheads, tails, legs, and sides as these mature. The back and the belly of Mali uromastyx have a more varied pattern. 

Some specimens have a black back with yellow dots while some have a yellow back with black dots. The dots can vary from simple freckles to hollow eyespot or honeycomb shapes. Still, there are May uromastyx with solid-white bellies while others have solid black bellies, yellow, tiger-striped patterns in black on yellow or black on white patterns. 

Males and females vary in size, color, and patterns. Both males and females have femoral pores. But when cared for in captivity, these coloration is not present. Also, both males and females should be longer than 10 inches and must be more than 5 ¼ ounces to breed. Captive lizards can take three years before these can reach this size and weight.  In captivity, uromastyx can breed communally, but breeders can get good results when kept as pairs all year round. 

Another method for sexing is looking for the hemipenal bulges located under the tail. This is known as the safest method to identify the gender of a lizard. Arch the tail over the back and check the underside of the tail, which is just behind the opening of the vent. In females, the base of the two ligaments can be seen on each side of the vent towards the tail tip. Only the base is visible looking like a small V but upside down, at the corner of the vent. In males, the hemipenes are found on the top of these structures, which are covering them. This one looks like two parallel lines that are above the vent but pointing to the tip of the tail. 

Mali uromastyx in captivity

According to experts, captive uromastyx has poor survival rates. This could be due to a poor understanding of the lizard’s diet and environmental needs. Recently, information about correct husbandry techniques has increased. Knowing the correct diet and the right way to care for Mali uromastyx have increased its survival in captivity. Now, captive lizards are likely healthier and can survive better even far better than species found in the wild. 

Handlers, breeders, and reptile lovers chose uromastyx as the ideal species for a pet due to their ability to adapt to captivity. Another species that can readily adapt to a new environment is the Uromastyx geyri, which is also known as the Saharan uromastyx. 

The red uromastyx is known as the red Niger Uromastyx, while the yellow is also known as the yellow Niger Uromastyx. 

Mali uromastyx is taken from the wild, often in illegal ways, for the pet trade. This lizard is also used as medicine by native people of Morocco despite being declared as a protected species. The uromastyx are sold in often poor conditions and overcrowded cages.

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Subspecies

These are the species that belong under the genus Uromastyx:

  • Uromastyx acanthinura – called Bell’s dabb lizard
  • Uromastyx aegyptia – the Egyptian mastigure or Leptien’s mastigure
  • Uromastyx alfreedsschmidti – called Schmidt’s mastigure
  • Uromastyx benti – called the Bent’s mastigure
  • Uromastyx dispar – the Sudan mastigure, this is further sub-classified as Uromastyx (dispar) flavifasciata  and the Uromastyx (dispar) maliensis or the Mali uromastyx
  • Uromastyx geyri – the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard 
  • Uromastyx macfadyeni –   the Macfadyen’s mastigure
  • Uromastyx nigriventris 
  • Uromastyx occidentalis – the giant spiny-tailed lizard
  • Uromastyx ocellata – or the eyed dabb lizard
  • Uromastyx ornate – or the ornate mastigure
  • Uromastyx princeps – the princely mastigure
  • Uromastyx thomasi – the Oman spiny-tailed lizard 
  • Uromastyx yemenensis – the Yemen spiny-tailed lizard

Life Span 

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The Mali Uromastyx has three life stages like other lizard species:

Newly born

A female Mali uromastyx can lay from 5 to 40 eggs, and after about 80 days, these eggs will hatch. The hatchlings weigh around 6 grams and are 5 cm long from snout to vent. These cute little lizards will rapidly grow in size in just a few weeks.  

Juvenile

During the juvenile stage, both male and female Mali Uromastyxs have a camouflage pattern of black or charcoal in a gray background. The juveniles are mini counterparts of adult uromastyx and are already able to hunt and feed all by themselves. 

Adult

Adult Mali Uromastyxs can be as long as 15 inches and can weigh as much as 14 ounces. These lizards have distinct yellow and black pattern coloration along the belly and back and a jet-black head, arms, legs, and tails.  

Eating Habits

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Mali uromastyx are herbivores, and these won’t drink water directly from a bowl, but it gets water from the food that it ingests. Leaving a bowl inside its enclosure for it to drink will increase the humidity inside the tank, and this can lead to problems for the lizard.

Captive uromastyx should be fed with organic herbs such as dandelion greens, endive, escarole, bok choy, and other vegetables that grow from the ground. The vegetables should not contain sugars. You may feed lettuce but not spinach, flowering kale, and chards because these contain oxalates which can prevent the absorption of calcium to the bloodstream. 

Younger uromastyx specimens also eat some insects to get important nutrients to help them during their rapid-growing years. But high protein can lead to liver damage in adult uromastyx. And even in the wild, adult uromastyx may sometimes eat 

Water

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This lizard lives in arid areas with no water. It gets its daily water needs from the vegetation they eat. Even if you leave a pan of water or spray water on the tank walls using a mister. It won’t drink at all. Therefore, don’t leave water inside the tank and just feed it fruits or vegetables, juicy organic produce, to get its daily water requirements.                                                                                        

Development, Reproduction, and Breeding

Before you decide on breeding Mali uromastyx, you need to understand that only expert breeders have successfully bread this lizard in captivity. We recommend that you brush up on lizard breeding skills and knowledge before you attempt to breed a uromastyx.  

To start the breeding process, a pair of Mali uromastyx will be placed in an enclosure. Courtship usually happens with displays of mating behaviors like head bobbing, chirping, and tail moving. Some uromastyx exhibit all these behaviors, while some may only show head bobbing with no chirping or other body movements. And inside the enclosure, place the nest box in the cooler part of the tank. 

A good artificial nest for a Mali uromastyx is a self-enclosed tub. Cut a small hole on the upper side of the container. Fill the box with a third full of 50-50 mixture of washed fine sand plus peat moss. You can add more water until the substrate is moist to touch.  

Place the male and female lizards in an artificial winter to stimulate breeding. Start by reducing the hour of the day by one or two hours every week until you are down to only 6 hours of daylight, unlike the usual 12-hour daylight and 12-hour darkness in a typical lighting schedule.  

Slowly decrease average day time temperatures until you get a mid-80 daytime high. Nighttime temperatures must drop 2 to 3 degrees every week until you get a high of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. These nighttime temperatures must persist throughout the nighttime and most during the day time. 

During the early stage of brumation, offer food as often as you can so that your uromastyx can build up its health before resting. But when the temperature is down to six hours of light, stop feeding completely. 

Brumation happens for 60 days, and afterward, reverse the process and start adding an hour of daylight per week until you are at the normal temperatures. 

Mating happens quickly right after a male has chosen a female. Gestation can last four weeks before a female Mali uromastyx lays a clutch with 10 to 20 eggs and buries them. Once the eggs are out, breeders usually remove them from the nest. 

Construct an incubator using slightly-damp vermiculite with activated charcoal and dry perlite. Use a Tupperware container measuring 11 x 7 x 4 inches, fill this container about 2/3  with the bedding mixture. Bury the eggs until a small portion is only visible from the mixture. Compared to other reptiles and egg-laying animals, the orientation of the uromastyx eggs is not important. Cover the Tupperware container. 

The eggs should be incubated at a temperature of 92 degrees. Open the lid once a week to take fresh air inside the container. You should also inspect the clutch for bad eggs, eggs with leaking fluid, eggs that have molded, or those with a caved-in appearance.  

Babies will hatch from their eggs in 60 to 80 days. Feeding, housing, and care of hatchlings are similar to adults. But for the substrate, use paper towels instead of regular substrate. And to improve humidity inside the tank, add an inch-deep dish top hold water in. This should be inside the tank for the first two months. 

Hatchlings may be placed in a 4 x 2 x 1 ½ inch tank or 10 babies per tank. As these grow, each of the hatchlings will need its tank. Hatchlings are also hungry as soon as these hatch from the eggs. The diet is similar to adults but feeds the hatchlings twice a day.  

Common Health Problems

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Here are the common problems that Mali Uromastyxs suffer from:

Parasites

Reptiles such as Mali uromastyx may have parasites that at first may not affect their health. However, when the lizard feels stressed or has any immune system condition, these parasites can cause life-threatening diseases. 

These parasites can affect the lizard’s health when these multiplies. You can stop parasites and infections from spreading by placing a new lizard under quarantine. A new pet or a new lizard is the usual cause of parasites, and putting a new guy on quarantine will help reduce parasites greatly in a tank. 

Check for signs and symptoms of parasitic infections such as smelly or runny poop, weight loss, enlarged abdomen, and lack of energy. 

Incomplete shedding

Look for shedding difficulties such as skin flakes, skin clinging on the tail or eyes, and restlessness. Any skin that’s difficult to remove should be done by a vet.  You may soak your lizard in a dish of warm water for only a few minutes to deal with dry skin and poor shedding. And for any shedding problems, consult a vet. A vet can also treat wounds or cuts due to poor shedding.

Metabolic Bone Disease 

MBD is a very common health condition in reptiles and other egg-laying animals. Metabolic bone disease is the lack of calcium in bones, and symptoms may occur over time. Acute symptoms in some lizards include bowed legs, a rubbery jaw, and kinks on the spine. 

Also, females that lay eggs require increased calcium in their diets. 

MBD can be treated by increasing vitamin D3 and calcium. Use calcium supplements and correct UV lighting to enhance vitamin D3 levels. 

Preventing Illness

Prevent illness by keeping the tank temperature and humidity at the best levels. This is needed by lizards in small and big enclosures. You must keep your tank clean because a dirty tank can lead to the growth of bacteria, and this can affect the health of your lizard. Remember, don’t use products that contain residue and toxins that can harm your lizard. 

Give your uromastyx the best food  These lizards are herbivores and make sure food is organic. Always quarantine new lizards. These new pets can be vectors to pests, mites, and parasites, so you must monitor it before you introduce this to the main tank. It can take a few weeks or a month to quarantine a new specimen.

Behavior

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To get to know a uromastyx, you need to understand some of its common behaviors. Here are some of the most common in a Mali Uromastyx:

Glass Surfing

This is an odd behavior that you’ll immediately notice with glass-enclosed uromastyx. These lizards will try their best to climb the walls of a terrarium with zero success. This is simply a behavior that tells you that they want out. So if you have time, take them out of the enclosure and just let them check out their surroundings. Also, positioned in a way that they are leaning against the glass can place a lot of pressure on their backs, so try to lift them out of the enclosure.  

Panting

Just like dogs, uromastyx pants because they don’t have sweat glands, and they are simply regulating their body temperatures. Usually, these lizards will hang out near the warmer part of their enclosure, but as this happens, these can become too warm and thus will cause these lizards to pant. 

Fattening Their Bodies

Usually, uromastyx will try to make their bodies look fat by fattening themselves. Doing so will increase the surface area where UV light and heat can penetrate. You can also help your lizard by installing a basking rock near the light source. 

Rubbing Against Anything

If you see your pet Mali uromastyx rubbing against each other or rubbing against the tank and accessories, then it’s likely that it will soon start shedding. Rubbing will help remove dead skin, and this is normal behavior. This can also be the cause of weird sounds and movements that they make as they walk.                                                                  

Licking Anything

Licking is how Mali uromastyx smell and explore things. By licking, it is creating some kind of map in its head so it will know where to go. You will notice the lizard lick things that are new inside the tank. Also, uromastyx has poor eyesight, and licking is their way to “see” better.  

Hissing

Sometimes you will notice some hissing, and this is a sound that the lizard makes when it feels threatened. The lizard will hiss when it tries to get away from you if you want to take them back inside the tank. It may hiss when there are new lizards nearby.

Stacking

You will notice uromastyx stacking on one another, and although this looks cute, this is not the case. Stacking means the lizards have established dominance, and the one on top is the alpha, and one at the lowest is the least important individual. Uromastyx will stack on each other if the enclosure is too small or when there’s overcrowding. This behavior can affect the survival of the lowest in the hierarchy as it bears the weight of all the lizards and will not get any light and heat. To avoid this, house your lizards in a large enclosure. This should be large enough for everyone to bask.  You may also separate your lizards in different tanks.  

Burrowing

A uromastyx will burrow in the substrate to construct a better hiding area or basking spot. Burrowing is also a way for the uromastyx to escape the tank. If the burrowing uromastyx is a female, then it may be creating a nest for her eggs.

Shedding

Shedding happens in large flakes in Mali uromastyx. However, some lizards may suffer from incomplete shedding. In incomplete shedding, parts of the tail, hands, feet, and eyes may shed in small, irregular flakes, and skin may be hard to remove in some areas of the body. Usually, incomplete shedding can be due to problems with humidity and other metabolic conditions.

To deal with incomplete shedding and to promote complete shedding, you must improve humidity levels inside the tank. You may also place it in warm water for at least a few minutes to remove dead skin. 

Also, take note that shedding may happen in juveniles and less frequently in adults. Some lizards find shedding stressful and may not eat during this time. Don’t worry because this is natural, and your pet will return to its voracious appetite when it has finished shedding. Take your pet lizard to the vet for any problems with shedding.

Habitat

The Mali uromastyx lives in the arid deserts of Africa, and therefore, it’s best to mimic its natural environment. The tank must be large if you want to accommodate more than one lizard. Housing several lizards at one time in a small area could lead to stacking and establishing hierarchy. You can avoid this by using a larger tank or by placing each lizard in one tank.

Also, the tank walls should be at least three to four feet deep because Mali uromastyx are good diggers and will attempt to tunnel through the wall of the enclosure.

Lighting, Humidity, and Temperature

The Mali Uromastyx needs a good lighting system inside the tank. Incandescent light is the best choice for a small tank or enclosure, while high-powered lamps will be the best choice for a larger tank. Place your lizard in a minimum of 12 hours of light, which is similar to daylight. This is the best amount of light for the health and tank environment. 

Install an under-cage heating pad to maintain tank temperature. This will keep tank interiors at 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and 85 to 100 degrees at night. There’s no need to use a pan of water because uromastyx will get water from the food it eats.

Tank Bedding and Accessories

Mali Uromastyxs should live in large tanks that are similar to where it lives in the wild. Decorate the tank like a desert with only a few plants, rocks, and places where it can hide from the heat. If you place it in a cool tank or an overly decorated tank, it will develop health problems and may not even survive.

If you want to place some accessories inside the tank, use safe and stable ones, must have no pointed edges which can injure your lizard. Place a den near the heat source and one farther away at the back of the tank.  

For the bedding or substrate for juvenile lizards, use paper for easy cleanings such as newspapers, packing paper, or paper towels. Remember that a Mali Uromastyx will sleep during the cold months, so placing a secure and comfortable area where it can sleep, and rest is crucial.

Sanitation

You must maintain your lizard’s cage with natural and safe cleaning products. Do this at least three times a year or as necessary. You can use homemade cleaners or commercially available cleaners. Homemade cleaners such as baking soda, lemon, and vinegar are effective and won’t leave any residue that can harm your lizard. 

You can also use dishwashing soap, bleach, and water. Be sure to rinse everything before you place the lizard back inside the tank. Baking soda and lemon can clean and deodorize the lizard tank. 

If you want to use chemical cleaners, follow the instructions on the label. Always rinse well with running water and use paper towels or a clean towel to dry the tank walls, flooring, and accessories. Clean the filters, humidifiers, and fans.

Availability – Where to Get One?

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You can get a Mali Uromastyx from a pet store or an online reptile shop. Just like other pet lizards, the uromastyx is sold as a hatchling, although you may also find adult ones sold as well.

The price for a regular Mali Uromastyx hatchling is around $200 to $300 depending on the size, color, gender, and age. You may also purchase Mali uromastyx for a lower price from a local supplier. 

Also, the cost of shipment and delivery affects the cost of buying a Mali Uromastyx. This is why most pet owners buy these from a local pet shop or directly from a breeder.

How to Care for a Mali Uromastyx

Remember the following when caring for a Mali Uromastyx

  • Keep the tank dry to prevent illnesses and to keep your lizard healthy and happy. Correct lighting also improves the tank temperature, so be sure to apply proper lighting conditions and use the right lamp for the job.
  • Keep the tank in a quiet area when the lizard is asleep and during brumation. Feed your lizard when it’s awake and energetic. Some lizards are diurnal, so find your lizard’s preferred time to eat before you feed it. 
  • Change your substrate to prevent bacteria and parasites. You can use sand or pebbles for the substrate to mimic the natural environment of this lizard. 
  • Handle your lizard early so it will trust you and will be calm even in public. You must handle it early to improve your skill as a handler as well.
  • Avoid overcrowding, so use a larger tank or enclosure. As much as possible, place one lizard in one tank to avoid this and to avoid unwanted aggression and stacking. You may use smaller tanks for breeding.
  • There’s no need to use a bowl to improve the humidity inside the tank because the uromastyx likes the area dry. It does not drink and will take in water from the food it eats like fruits, vegetables, and vegetation. 
  • Take your pet to a reptile specialist or an exotics vet regularly. Always be wary of signs that it’s sick or when it’s wounded or lethargic.  
  • Beware of salmonella. Some reptiles may carry this parasite and may still look healthy. To avoid salmonella, wash your hands before and after handling the uromastyx. This is also a warning when handling other reptiles such as turtles, snakes, and lizards.
  • Feed the Mali uromastyx with the right kind of food. There should be no problem since this is a herbivore, and a simple trip to the supermarket is enough to shop for its food. Choose organic food for your lizard, and avoid leafy greens. Choose food that is rich sources of water like cucumbers and other produce.   

FAQ Section

How long does Mali uromastyx live?

Mali uromastyx can live up to 20 years in captivity. There is no record of how long a Mali uromastyx can live in the wild. 

How many eggs does Mali uromastyx lay?

A Mali uromastyx can lay from 10 to 20 eggs in a clutch. In captive breeding, eggs should be removed by the breeder and housed in a large container with a warm substrate. 

Are Mali uromastyx territorial?

Mali uromastyx are not territorial when housed in a large cage or enclosure. It can become territorial and establish some hierarchy when there is overcrowding. Mali uromastyx can stack on each other to establish dominance with the lizard at the lowest in the stack suffering from lack of lighting and air.

Will Mali uromastyx bite?

Wild Mali uromastyx can bite, especially when it feels threatened. Captive Mali uromastyx will not bite if it is handled correctly and handled earlier in its life. 

Is a Mali uromastyx poisonous?

No, the bite of a Mali uromastyx is not poisonous, but it could tear the flesh off.  

Can a Mali uromastyx be aggressive?

Yes, it can be aggressive, especially wild Mali uromastyx specimens. This lizard can develop an aggressive attitude if you don’t handle it well and if kept in cages with limited space. 

Can a Mali uromastyx hibernate?

Mali uromastyx don’t hibernate but will only brumate. Brumation is when the lizard becomes dormant and will sleep or rest for longer hours; at this time. it should not be disturbed, and the tank should be quiet, and the lights dimmed.

How do you pick up a Mali uromastyx?

Picking up a uromastyx takes special care and attention to its large tail. Hold it with both hands on its belly and gently lift it only several inches from the ground. Don’t lift it high in the air to move it from place to place. 

Can you bath a Mali uromastyx?

No, you don’t need to bath a pet Mali uromastyx. A simple rub down with a soft cloth will do; remove dirt from its back, belly, and tail, but if it is very dirty, a short soak in warm water will do the trick.

Can you get hurt by the Mali uromastyx’s tail?

Yes, the Mali uromastyx tail is large and can inflict pain and may scratch your skin if it attacks. So as much as possible, stay away from a Mali uromastyx tail.

Can you feed Mali uromastyx cactus?

Edible cactus with no spines can be fed to a uromastyx. Chop these into small bite-sized pieces or the size that’s big enough for the lizard to eat; place these in a small bowl. 

Can Mali uromastyx eat aloe Vera?

Yes, a Mali uromastyx can eat aloe Vera, but not too much because this can lead to runny stools. Just offer this as a juicy treat now and then; it does not have to be a staple in your uromastyx diet.

How does Mali uromastyx sleep?

In the wild, Mali uromastyx will dig a hole in the ground to serve as its den. It will come inside to sleep by curling itself in a ball and sleeping. Female Mali uromastyx may dig a separate hole in the ground to serve as her nest.

Can you use an ordinary lamp for the Mali uromastyx tank?

Mali uromastyx requires a very warm light to mimic the natural temperature of the desert area where it is naturally found. Use a strong light source in the basking area but allow a cooler area where the lizard can cool down when it’s too hot. 

Can a Mali uromastyx recognize its owner?

Some Mali uromastyx owners say that their pets can recognize them and will carefully wait for them as they bring their food. In some caretakers, the Mali uromastyx will follow them around and will wait patiently for their return.

Will a Mali uromastyx understand some commands?

There are no records that a Mali uromastyx has been tamed enough to obey different commands. Owners of Mali uromastyx only say that their pets can recognize them from other people.  

Can  Mali uromastyx jump?

No, Mali uromastyx cannot jump because of their short legs and heavy bodies. These are known to be good diggers, though, and can dig deep into the soil or ground to escape the hot desert sun.

Is Mali uromastyx easy to keep?

Yes, Mali uromastyx are easy to keep for as long as you follow closely its needs and to create a habitat that’s the same with its regular or natural habitat in the desert. 

Are Mali uromastyx endangered or threatened species?

No, Mali uromastyx is not included in any endangered species list, but still, protecting the lizard from habitat destruction and indiscriminate hunting due to the pet trade is a must to preserve this lovely species. 

Will Mali uromastyx survive in a regular home?

Yes, the Mali uromastyx can survive in a regular home or captivity provided a dry, arid desert condition is created for its enclosure. No need to create a warm and comfortable enclosure; just a desert-like environment will do. 

Can you buy a Mali uromastyx from a local pet store?

No, Mali uromastyx may not be available from a local pet shop because this is an exotic animal. You may need to order from an online exotic pet store or to contact breeders directly.

Is a Mali uromastyx a good first-time pet? 

Mali uromastyx is easy to take care of as long as you provide the right habitat and the right food.

Wil Mali uromastyx live with other lizards?

As much as possible, separate the Mali uromastyx from other lizards because these have different environmental requirements as the Mali uromastyx need a dry environment to live. Some lizards need a humid area with lots of moisture, and this can kill a uromastyx. 

Where do Mali uromastyx come from?

Mali uromastyx comes from Mali, a country in Africa. It lives in the desert and enjoys the hot sun and cold nights. Temperatures in this area can reach more than 100 degrees and can be cold in the evenings.  

Wil Mali uromastyx eat insects?

Some breeders say that they can add some insects in a Mali uromastyx diet for the lizard to get more nutrients, but in the wild, Mali uromastyx are herbivores, which means they don’t eat meat.  

Is a Mali uromastyx a small lizard?

A Mali uromastyx is small to a medium-sized lizard and can grow from 10 to 15 inches in length. It can grow longer in captivity.  

How do you handle the Mali uromastyx tail?

A captive Mali uromastyx will tolerate handling its tail and will even let you pet it. But in the wild, never attempt to hold the Mali uromastyx tail or capture it from its tail because this can injure it, or it can make it very upset. 

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