Prague Zoo presents the ‘Holy Grail’ of herpetologists


20. 12. 2016

Prague Zoo is celebrating the arrival of a very rare and valuable lizard species, the Earless Monitor Lizard. A group of seven of these unique animals arrived at Prague Zoo from Japan at the beginning of December. The largest of them can be seen from December 21st in the Indonesian Jungle pavilion in one of the expositions of nocturnal animals.

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

The Earless Monitor Lizard is endemic to the island of Borneo, where it has been recorded in the Malaysian State of Sarawak and the Indonesian provinces of West and North Kalimantan. Little is known about the ecology and occurrence of these valuable lizards; they are probably concentrated in lowland rainforests hidden in the ground around rivers and streams during the days and becoming active at night.

“Earless Monitor Lizards are very mysterious creatures; just a couple of experts have had the privilege to see them in the wild. That's also the reason why this species is sometimes referred to as ‘the Holy Grail of herpetologists’” says the zoo’s curator of reptiles, Petr Velenský. “Just a few individuals of this species are kept in zoological institutions. Most of the lizards are found in the iZoo, in the Shizuoka Prefecture

in Japan. Its owner, Tsuyoshi Shirawa, managed to breed these highly valuable animals in captivity for the very first time in 2014. Our group of these lizards is descended from Shirawa's first breeding” adds Velenský. The group consists of an adult female, 33 centimeters long, hatched in 2014 and six hatchlings between two and three months old. The little ones will stay, for now, in the background facilities for their own comfort until they grow up.

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

“It is a great zoological success to have such precious lizards in our exposition, nevertheless those who are expecting a big visual sensation may be a bit disappointed”, said Velenský with a smile on his face. “Our priority is to give our most precious residents the best conditions possible” he adds seriously. The whole group has adapted to their new home very well and they feed on their main food – earthworms - with an especially good appetite.

The goal of Prague Zoo is to actively participate in the development of a European Breeding Program for this rare species in order to establish a sustainable population in captivity. Due to the small distribution of wild Earless Monitor Lizards, and the continuous diminishing of rainforest areas, the fate of this precious species is very uncertain.

Photo: Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo