Butaan | @bicolmuseum via Los Angeles Zoo


Shy and secretive – We continue learning about the rich biodiversity of Bicol region this Wild life Wednesday as National Museum of the Philippines’ Bicol introduces you to Gray’s Monitor Lizard (Varanus olivaceus) of the Varanidae family. It is one of the three species of frugivorous monitor lizard endemic in the Philippines.

Locally known as butaan, the Gray’s monitor lizards are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their lives on trees. They also love hiding in holes of big trees in forests like the dipterocarps.

They are frugivorous or fruit-eating monitor lizard that feed on fruits of pandan (Pandanus sp.), bago (Gnetum gnemon), aporong (Microcos stylocarpa), pili (Canarium sp.), fig (Ficus sp.), and forest palms, such as Pinanga insignis, Caryota sp. and Livistona sp. Aside from fruits, they also feed on snails and other arthropods.

The butaans are oviparous; they lay eggs which develop and hatch into young monitor lizards. Their reproductive activity happens mainly between June and September. Butaans are large reptiles. They can grow up the length of 176 cm. They are greenish to greyish in color with crosswise dark blackish stripes on its nape to shoulder region.

They are large yet shy monitor lizard. They inhabit the primary and secondary tropical moist forest of southern Luzon. In Bicol region, the butaans are found in Catanduanes island.

There are 11 species of monitor lizard endemic to the country, all of which are now listed threatened per DENR Administrative Order 2019-09. The butaan in particular is among the threatened species. The destruction of their forest habitat and the rampant illegal capture of this reptile threatens their population.

Monitor lizards are one of the commonly poached wildlife that are illegally traded as pets. Some are caught for their meat too! The public is always reminded that capture of this wildlife is against the law per RA 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

Let the monitor lizards live free in its natural habitat. They are good seed dispersers in the forest, thus ensuring the spread and growth of our forest trees.

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