July 16, 2017
The Blue Dragons of Batanta
- as seen by -Samuel Bozeman
The blue tree monitor (Varanus macraei) is a new species of monitor lizard discovered in 2001 and found only on the Indonesian island of Batanta. It belongs to the tree monitor group in the genus Prasinus. It is a long and slender lizard with a prehensile tail that makes up to two-thirds of its total length. Males can measure up to 3.5 ft in length, with females being slightly smaller.
This monitor is almost exclusively arboreal, meaning that most of its life will be spent navigating through the trees and rarely venturing to the forest floor. It has adapted to moving through the canopy by using its prehensile tail for grasping and balance. Its tail can be maneuvered as needed, either coiled close to the body, or outstretched like a whip to use as a defense. Its needle-sharp claws also aid in climbing. Mottled blue and black coloration provides camouflage for this lizard in the canopy. When threatened, it will make a hasty retreat into a tree hollow or crevice.
The habitat of these “dragons” is lowland tropical forest with temperatures ranging from 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit, and wet season humidity can reach up to 100 percent.
There is still much to learn about this reclusive creature. At the Wildlife Conservation Society, we are committed to understanding them more. In 2016, for the first time, we successfully hatched three offspring and once again have eggs incubating. Enjoy these lizards at the Bronx Zoo’s Zoo Center, and for a limited time, in the nursery exhibit in the World of Reptiles.
EDITOR’S NOTE: National Zoo Keeper Appreciation Week is July 15-23. Wild View is featuring posts by our Wildlife Conservation Society zoo keepers. For more on activities and schedules on keeper week, visit the Bronx Zoo’s website.