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Varanus timorensis Print E-mail
Timor monitor

Varanus timorensis    Gray 1836

The Timor monitor is a little jewel of a lizard. Many subspecies have been described but all are now assigned to different species (i.e. V.timorensis similis, V.timorensis scalaris and V.timorensis orientalis). The Timor monitor lives on just a few small islands in the south of Indonesia; Timor, Sawu, Roti and Samoa/Seman/Kisser. It reaches a total length of about 60cm (25cm SVL) and has a tail 137-176% of the SVL. The heaviest recorded from the wild was 290g (Mertens 1958; Brandenberg 1983; King 1993).

Very little is known about the Timor monitor in the wild. They climb well and have been seen basking on fences around human habitations. When threatened they may take shelter on the ground or in trees. Like most dwarf monitors its diet consists of other reptiles (geckoes and small snakes) and invertebrates such as scorpions, orthopterans, spiders, mantids, bees and roaches (Schmutz & Horn 1986; Losos & Green 1888; King 1993). Aspects of ritual combat in this species are discussed in Horn (1985).

The Timor monitor responds well to good captive care and breeding has been recorded quite regularly (Anon 1980, Belcher 1980, Sautereau & Bitter 1980, Behrmann 1981, Rese 1983; Moehn 1984, Eidenmuller 1986, Lambertz 1995). This species is not as robust as V.scalaris and tends to come off worst when the two species are housed together (Murphy 1972). There are no spines around the vents of males to help distinguish sexes (Mertens 1942b). An enclosure of 0.5m2 is sufficient to house a pair, but ample climbing space should be provided with plenty of hiding places above ground. Timor monitors seem to tolerate each other well and colonies can be maintained without much fighting providing, of course, sufficient space is available. A diet of tiny rodents, egg yolk and insects is suitable, supplemented with vitamin and mineral supplements. Reproductive behaviour may be stimulated by introducing a 24 hour photoperiod (Anon 1980). Even long term captives tend to lay eggs between December and March each year (when breeding is the wild is believed to take place). A single clutch of up to 11 eggs is produced, which hatch after 93-186 days depending on incubation temperature. Best results have been obtained at 27-30oC. Hatchlings measure 5.5-7cm SVL and weigh 4.5-6g. They can double in weight within 8 weeks.


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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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