Varanus-salvator, Water monitor, Alu

Written by on November 30, 1999 in Bali Reptile with 0 Comments

Varanus-salvator, Water monitor, Alu

The Water moniVaranus-salvator, Water monitor, Alutor, (Varanus salvator) is a large species of monitor lizard capable of growing over 3 meters (9.8 ft) in length, with the average size of most adults at 2.5 meters {8.9} long. Maximum weight of Varanus salvator can be over 90 kg, but most are half that size. Their body is muscular with a long, powerful, laterally compressed tail. Water monitors are one of the most common monitor lizards found throughout Asia, and range from Sri Lanka, India, Indochina, the Malay Peninsula and various islands of Indonesia, living in areas close to water.
The generic name Varanus is derived from the Arabic waral (ورل), which translates as “monitor” in English. The specific name is the Latin word for “Saviour” denoting a possible religious connotation.The Water monitor is occasionally confused for the Crocodile monitor (V. salvadorii) because of their similar scientific names.

In Thailand, the word water monitor or actually local word ‘เหี้ย’ (hia) is used as an insulting word for bad and evil things including a bad person. Its name is also considered a word bringing a bad luck, so some people prefer to call them ‘ตัวเงินตัวทอง’ which means ‘silver and gold’ in Thai to avoid the jinx.

The origin of this offensive meaning may be dated back to the time when people lived in rural area with plenty water monitor lizards on the wild. Traditionally, thai villagers lived in typical 2 storey houses, the top floor was for living while the ground floor was designed to be a space for household animals such as pigs, hens and dogs. Water monitor lizards, occasionally, sneaked in to the confined space and eat those animals which eventually enraged villagers.

Subspecies of Varanus salvator

* Asian Water Monitor, Varanus salvator salvator the nominotypic subspecies is now restricted to Sri Lanka.
* Andaman Islands Water Monitor, Varanus salvator andamanensis: Andaman Islands; Type locality: Port Blair, Andaman Islands.
* Two-striped Water Monitor, Varanus salvator bivittatus: Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Ombai (Alor), Wetar and some neighbouring islands within the Sunda arch, Indonesia; Type locality: Java (designated by Mertens 1959).
* Black Water Monitor, Varanus salvator komaini:Thailand. Type locality: Amphoe La-ngu, Satun Prov., Thailand, and Thai-Malaysian border area. This was formerly a subspecies, but now regarded as a synonym of V. s. macromaculatus.
* Southeast Asian Water Monitor, Varanus salvator macromaculatus: Type locality: Siam (Thailand). Mainland Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Borneo and smaller associated offshore islands.[3]

[edit] Species of the Varanus salvator Complex

The following species were once recognized as subspecies of Varanus salvator but in 2007 were recognized as individual species in their own right.

* Varanus cumingi: Mindanao, Philippines; Type locality: Mindanao, Philippines.
* Varanus marmoratus: Islands of Luzon, Palawan, Calamian and Sulu archipelago, Philippines; Type locality: (restricted by Mertens 1942 to) San Mateo near Manila, Philippines.
* Varanus nuchalis: Philippines (Cebu, Ticao, Negros, Panay and Masbate, Philippines); Type locality: Philippines.
* Varanus togianus: Togian Islands, Sulawesi, Indonesia; Type locality: “Togian-Inseln (Timotto)” Indonesia

Behavior and diet

Water monitors can be defensive, using their tail, claws, and jaws when fighting. They are excellent swimmers, using the raised fin located on their tails to steer through water. Water Monitors are carnivores, and have a wide range of foods. They are known to eat fish, frogs, rodents, birds, crabs, and snakes. They have also been known to eat turtles, as well as young crocodiles and crocodile eggs Like the Komodo Dragon, they will often eat carrion. As it’s not their bite that will kill, rather the bacteria within the ridges of the mouth that will cause a nasty infection and cause their prey to die, they much prefer to feed on a corpse. That way they can feed without a struggle.


In Hong Kong, it is a protected species under Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170. In Malaysia, this species is one of the most common wild animals around with numbers comparable to that of the population of macaques there. Although many fall prey to humans via road kill and animal cruelty, it still thrives in most states of Malaysia especially in the shrubs of the east-coast states such as Pahang and Terengganu. Malay “kampung” boys and young working class malay men often catch and kill water monitors for their own amusement although the widespread population of the species causes the lack of conservation attention. In the east-coast states of Malaysia, this species is very common in road kill. In Thailand, all monitor lizards are protected species.

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