Rainforest Lizards

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When I guide tourists on multiple days tropical birding tour in rainforest of West Papua, I often see a lot of kinds of lizards both big and small. There are lizards that spend most of their time walking on the forest floor feeding on insects in wood debris but there are also big lizards that live in trees but often walk on the ground or swim in the water to find food. From my personal experience, the best sites of for seeing big lizards are in Klabolo forest of Sorong regency, in Tambrauw Mountains, and in Arfak range.

Mangrove monitor lizard in rainforest of Sorong regency of West Papua, Indonesia. Photo: Charles Roring
Mangrove Monitor (Varanus indicus)

Soa-soa Air (meaning Water Monitor Lizard) - This is a big lizard whose length could reach more than 1.3 meters. I saw it in several places such as Waigeo island of Raja Ampat, Triton bay of Kaimana, Mesirrokow forest of Manokwari, and Klabolo forest of Sorong regency. It is a big reptile compared to house gecko or blue tailed lizard found in lowland and lower montane forest of New Guinea. Based on its physical appearance, this lizard is scientifically known as Mangrove Monitor (Varanus indicus). Its skin is dark green or black and covered with yellow spots. It is fast in the water and can catch fish. The picture that I present in this article was taken in a small river in Klabolo forest. At that time I was guiding a Chinese lady and an Australian lady. We had finished watching Lesser Birds of Paradise and were walking back to our jungle hut. In the middle of the way, we saw the lizard staying still in the water. We immediately turned on our cameras and took pictures of the animal. Realizing that he was being watched by human, he began to move. First he was carefully slow but later he quickly disappeared into the water and left us.

Blue tail forest floor lizard in debris of sago tree in rainforest of Sorong regency of West Papua, Indonesia. Photo: Charles Roring
Blue tail Forest Lizard

This is a beautiful lizard that likes to find food in forest floor particularly among fallen branches or tree trunks. Its size is quite small but it has got blue tail that is longer than its body. There are several golden lines running from had to its rear part of the body. This lizard can easily be found near decaying food such as a fallen sago tree whose decaying pith attracts a lot of flies and other insects. Last week, I guided Tony Lau - a Canadian tourist in Klabolo forest of Sorong regency for four days. We spent our time exploring the forest to see its birds and other wild animals. We also visited part of the forest where villagers cut sago and extracted its starch from the pith. There was a fallen sago tree whose half of the trunk had been cut and whose pith had been taken and extracted. When we examined the sago, we saw several blue tail lizard moving on the dry brown palm leaves and trunk. Some were chasing the others perhaps to claim territories or for mating. written by Charles Roring