Varanus timorensis Gray, 1831

Kaiser, Hinrich, Carvalho, Venancio Lopes, Ceballos, Jester, Freed, Paul, Heacox, Scott, Lester, Barbara, Richards, Stephen J., Trainor, Colin R., Sanchez, Caitlin & O'Shea, Mark, 2011, The herpetofauna of Timor-Leste: a first report, ZooKeys 109, pp. 19-86 : 42

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scientific name

Varanus timorensis Gray, 1831


Varanus timorensis Gray, 1831 Fig. 20 View Figure 20

Common names.

(E) Timor Tree Monitor, Spotted Tree Monitor. (T) Lafaek rai-maran (lafaek = crocodile or large lizard, rai = dirt, maran = dry). (Mambae) Loti. (Fataluku) Puilolon.


Timor tree monitors are the largest lizards reported from Timor-Leste. Their identifying color pattern consists of circular yellow ocelli that cover the entire dorsum ( Fig. 20 View Figure 20 Upper). These lizards have nares that are positioned posterior to the snout by nearly a third of the distance from eye to the tip of the snout ( Fig. 20 View Figure 20 Lower), whereas they are positioned in close proximity of the snout in other lizards on Timor.

Collection and natural history.

We captured, photographed, and released four individuals of this small monitor lizard in the Loré area, Lautém District, and two in the Tutuala Beach area (Pantai Walu). One individual was seen repeatedly on a roadside retaining wall in Tutuala just west of the turnoff for Tutuala Beach. Another individual was observed basking in a sunspot in coastal dry forest from where it escaped into the hole of a dead branch. Three individuals were active in the undergrowth in coastal dry forest. Two individuals were hiding by night under loose bark on a tree and could initially only be recognized by their exposed tails. We have also seen road-killed specimens of this species on roadways running through rice paddies.

While driving along the coast road of northern Timor-Leste, we caught glimpses of monitor lizards of uncertain species affinity crossing the ‘blacktop.’ On at least one occasion we were able to ascertain by visual identification that the individual was Varanus timorensis , but on other occasions we could not make a positive identification. Varanus indicus , a widespread Indo-Pacific species of monitor lizard with similar body aspect and lifestyle to Varanus timorensis , has been reported from Timor, although we have so far been unable to find any corroboration, either via photography, voucher specimen, or artistic representation, that Varanus indicus is present on Timor. Such reports may stem from fleeting identifications by visitors familiar with the Varanus indicus body morphology. Reports from local villagers regarding the presence of a large monitor lizard similar to Varanus salvator from swamps in the Becora area require investigation.