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Varanus yemenensis Print E-mail
Yemen monitor

Varanus yemenensis    Bohme, Joger & Schatti 1989

The Yemen monitor was the most magnificent discovery of the 1980's. Specimens had been collected in the late 19th Century and had been in the British Museum since 1903 and 1906 but it had been presumed that the specimens had been mislabelled and must have been collected in Africa. Not until a German film maker unwittingly filmed a large monitor lizard climbing a tree in Yemen was the scientific world alerted to the presence of this magnificent animal. For several years no living specimens could be found, despite intensive searches of their known habitat. Finally eight specimens were caught and brought to Europe, where the animals were declared a new species (Bohme et al 1987, Bohme et al 1989).

The Yemen monitor is similar in appearance to V.albigularis, especially to the eastern form V.albigularis microstictus. It differs from the African lizards in its lack of pattern (except for a yellow band over the snout) and its smaller scales. Examination of blood proteins, hemipenal and lung morphology provide evidence that the Yemen monitor is a valid species (Bohme et al 1989, Bohme 1991b, Becker 1991).

ImageThe Yemen monitor reaches a total length of at least 110cm (50cm SVL). This is a stoutly built species with a tail 108-120% of the SVL. They are known from the Yemen Arab Republic, the Peoples Democratic Republic of Yemen and Saudi Arabia (all location data in Bohme et al 1989), where they live in scrubland and dry forest in the foothills of mountains up to at least 1300 m above sea level. The Yemen monitor is most commonly seen close to shallow water or in dry river beds. Its diet is said to consist largely of insects (especially beetles), snails and other invertebrates. They probably take larger prey when the opportunity arises. Activity may be reduced or suspended during the driest part of the year (January to March). Despite the excitement over the discovery of this lizard there has been no rush of ecologists to Arabia to study it in its natural environment.

In captivity the Yemen monitor appears rather to be a rather docile animal. Large males tend to dominate smaller ones and may prevent them from feeding properly. Behaviour similar to mating has been observed between males but so far there are no records of bipedal combat in this species. When given the opportunity they will dig deep burrows under a rock or tree stump (Honneger, pers. comm., Saegesser, pers. comm.). In addition to invertebrates, the Yemen monitor will feed on mice, fish and birds in captivity (Bohme et al 1989) So far there are no records of captive breeding.
 
 

 

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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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