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Monitoring Individuals 1 Print E-mail

butaan1.jpgButaan are so shy they frequently remain in a tree for more than a week after being frightened. A large male we rescued from a trap hid in a tree for 22 days before coming down!* . Most lizards do not appear traumatised by being caught and released by scientists, and resume normal activity very quickly. But we think that butaan, especially older individuals, may permanently alter their activity areas after such an encounter. Because the animals are so shy, and highly vulnerable to human disturbance, we have had to develop a range of techniques that allow us to learn about them with the absolute minimum of interference.

 

 





ImageThe only butaan that are handled by the project are animals that have been rescued from hunters or are brought to the project HQ by local people, usually after they have been caught in traps set for other animals or chased by dogs. We have never paid people to bring butaan to us and in ten years we have only handled 25 butaan. Twenty four of these animals were released within 24 hours at what we believed was the exact spot where they were captured. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When butaan are brought to the project we measure and weigh them, check the animals for injuries, scars and external parasites and make a very small mark by notching 2-4 scales on the tail crest . This mark allows us to indentify recaptured individuals but unfortunately is rarely distinguishable on camera trap pictures 

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ImageWe tape coccoon bobbins to the tail base and return the animal to where it was caught. We aim to release butaan within three hours of them arriving at our camp, and have achieved this in 68% of cases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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ImageUsually we have to rely on whoever brings the animal to tell us where it was found. After the animal has been released we leave it alone for two or three days and then follow the spool and line trail once a week. If we are lucky the spools stay on for several weeks, but more usually they drop off after 3-7 days. More about following butaan >

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* The animal was named “Three Weeks” and was still alive and well when the last of our camera traps broke down two years after its encounter with people, although it never revisited the hillside it was trapped on)

 
 

 

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The Butaan Project
The Butaan Project - Background and History
butaan2.jpgThe butaan was first described to science in 1845 from a juvenile specimen collected by Hugh Cuming. It was labelled only "Philippines". It was named Varanus grayi.  No other specimens came to light for over 120 years. In the 1970s Walter Auffenberg found another specimen with a location in Luzon, established that its correct scientific name was Varanus olivaceus, and undertook a 22 month study of the species based in Bicol. His study revealed that butaan occupy a unique ecological niche and have a lifestyle quite unlike any other monitor lizard. Auffenberg used local hunters with dogs to catch the animals. Of 126 butaan caught during his study, 116 animals were killed.
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