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The “Holy Grail” Of Lizard Species: Borneo Earless Monitors Resemble Majestic Dragons

The “Holy Grail” Of Lizard Species: Borneo Earless Monitors Resemble Majestic Dragons

Forget everything you thought you knew about dragons. It turns out, they’re real and they live in Borneo.

Do you like lizards? That question is usually met with a mediocre ‘meh’, as most people neither love them or hate them, but feel ambiguous towards them.

There are over 6,000 different species of lizard in the world, and 79  of those are monitor lizards. The Komodo Dragon being the largest of the monitor lizards and growing up to 10 feet long.

All monitor lizards have long muscular tails and sharp claws. Though most species, particularly the larger species, live on the ground, young monitor lizards and smaller species live fully or partially in trees.

But we’re not here to talk about all the other interesting types of monitor lizards in the world, we’re here to talk about one specific species- the Borneo Earless Monitor lizard.

Have you ever seen a Borneo earless monitor lizard? These lizards are native to Borneo, and experts call them “the Holy Grail of herpetologists.” Unfortunately, zoologists don’t really have too much information on them due to their scarcity.

Until recently, scientists and collectors had captured fewer than a hundred specimens since the species’ 1877 discovery. Among reptile enthusiasts, its rarity and mystique have earned it a grandiose nickname: “the Holy Grail of herpetology.”

It is a semiaquatic, brown lizard native to the Southeast Asian island of Borneo. It is the only living species in the family Lanthanotidae and it is related to the true monitor lizards. Their scientific name is Lanthanotus borneensis (literally, “hidden ear from Borneo,” named for its lack of external ear openings). They are truly magnificent creatures.

As beautiful as they are, you might be thinking “I want one as a pet.” Well, we’ve got something to tell you- that’s not going to happen.

Collecting the species from the wild is illegal; the earless monitor lizard has been protected in Malaysia since 1971, in Brunei since 1978 and in Indonesia since 1980. Only a hundred of lizards have been kept in captivity as part of the studying process. They are so rare and only “thrive” at night.

As of September 2016, the earless monitor lizard received international protection under Appendix II listing of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meaning trade is closely controlled and is not allowed without a CITES export permit.

If you show someone a picture of these little guys, they will say that these lizards look like dinosaurs or dragons. Their bodies reach approximately 16 inches, and their short limbs end with sharp talon-like claws. We can’t ignore the pointed ridges above the lizards’ direct-gazing blue eyes. They are sensitive to temperatures of 26-28 degrees Celsius.

Last year at the Prague Zoo, Five earless monitor lizards were born in captivity. There’s an ongoing initiative to increase the number of these species. The whole process will require a lot of effort and finances, but the outlook is hopeful.

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