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The Butaan Project - Monitoring Populations Print E-mail

Camera traps have allowed us to monitor butaan populations on Polillo in a way never attempted for any lizard species before




Image. All of our Trailmaster units are beyond repair and will cost $200 each to replace. You can sponsor a camera trap on Polillo and get regular updates on what it sees, and even prints of the best shots. 

ImageWe use camera traps to monitor butaan populations.We have tried many different models of camera traps, but very few are able to reocrd and photographs lizards reliably. The best model was the Trailmaster 550, which work well in the forest for about 16 months. Sending defective units to the manufacturer for repair has not solved the problems. In 2005 we had 17 working camera traps, currently we have none.

Camera trap with no flash (800ASA film)
Camera trap with flash (800 ASA)

Camera trapping lizards might seem harmless, but in fact the electronic flash creates considerable disturbance. Young lizards ignore camera traps but larger individuals are scared away by camera flash and either do not return or find alternative routes to fruit!!For this reason we usually set camera traps without flash. Consequently, it  can be difficult to recognise individual lizards because the pictures are dark. These problems are compounded by:

  • Shedding patterns
  • Differences in wet and dry patterns
  • Differences in film exposure

Nevertheless, we have a good knowledge of many butaan in the population.

Probably the biggest and oldest butaan left on Polillo

This adult male was probably killed in a trap in 2005

Old FF, a long-term resident of the watershed reserve.

A young butaan first recorded in 2004 that disappeared in 2006

And a better understanding of social systems in these mysterious animals.

Two butaan leaving a tree together, July 2005






About Mampam
Bye Bye Butaan


Butaan start to visit fruiting trees before they are large enough to swallow the fruits. They make repeat journeys to trees, perhaps to reinforce memory of the position of the tree. If the youngster survives it may continue to use this tree for many decades. Fruiting trees like this are a vital resource for entire populations of butaan. Learn more >

Help Mampam
The Butaan Project
Varanus bitatawa

Varanus bitatawa is the third species of  monitor lizard to be recognised by science that belongs to the "Pandan Biawak" group,  all of which are of at least as great a conservation concern as the Komodo dragon, but receive virtually none of the attention. Pandan Biawak occur only in lowland dipterocarp forest. The first species (Varanus olivaceus or Butaan) was discovered in 1845 and not seen alive by a scientist until the late 1970s. The next species (Varanus mabitang or Mabitang) was discovered in 2001 and in 2010 Varanus bitatawa (Butikaw or Bitatawa) was described. Other species of frugivorous monitor lizards may remain undescribed, but many may have  gone extinct without ever having been recognised.




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