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Monitor Lizards & International Law Print E-mail
Captive Care of Monitors
Extract from A Little Book of Monitor Lizards © D. Bennett 1995. Viper Press, UK

ImageNearly all countries are signatories of the CITES convention which controls the trade in animals and plants considered to be vulnerable to commercial exploitation. All species of monitor lizard are afforded protection under this legislation. It is not lawful to transport the animals across international boundaries without a CITES export certificate from the country of origin and a CITES import certificate from the country of destination. In order to obtain these certificates you must satisfy the authorities that the animals are in your possession legally. Commercial trade in species listed on Appendix I of the CITES regulations is totally outlawed and permits only given for their export and import for other purposes under exceptional circumstances.

Five Asian monitor lizards are included on Appendix I: the Komodo Dragon, Gray's monitor, the Bengal monitor, the Caspian monitor and the yellow monitor. All other species are listed in Appendix II. Commercial trade is allowed, but all specimens must carry CITES documentation. Failure to comply with CITES regulations results in automatic confiscation of the animals and punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. Buyers of monitor lizards should always get a copy of the CITES import certificate authorising their import. If the lizards subsequently breed and you want to sell the youngsters abroad you will be expected to prove that they are captive bred and that the parent animals were legally imported. Some countries, notably Australia, only rarely issue export permits for wild animals and never for commercial trade (however see Hoser (1993b) for a fascinating account of the illicit trade in Australian wildlife). Goannas reach the rest of the world either for research and breeding exchanges between institutions, or illicitly. Luckily many specimens are intercepted at borders and passed on by the authorities to zoos and individuals who succeed in breeding them. Captive born Australian monitors with CITES certification fetch very high prices. In addition to CITES regulations local laws may impose separate restrictions or even prohibitions on the import and keeping of certain monitor lizards.

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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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