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Welfare of Savannah Monitors Print E-mail

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Tens of thousands of savannah monitors are exported from West Africa every year for the pet trade, but what happens to them? Very few survive more than 5 years and the vast majority are dead within a year. Many of the survivors end up as unwanted pets. But the species is heavily promoted as an ideal choice of pet lizard for inexperienced keepers. 

Savannah monitor lizards are one of the most abused animals in the reptile pet trade. Toted as an easy to care for species it is actually a highly specialised animal that takes a long time to die in unsuitable conditions. Thousands are imported from Africa each year, almost none are bred in captivity and they are one of the most common lizard species encountered by animal rescue organisations. Demand for the animals has been fuelled by a series of books and articles that have completely ignored the animals' specialised ecology and given the wholly incorrect impression that the animals are "easy to keep", "ideal for beginners" "will eat almost anything" etc.  These publications are sold almost exclusively in pet shops simply to increase sales, and with utter disregard for the welfare of the animals.
 
 

 

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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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