EFA: Etsy For Animals Etsy For Animals: ANiMAL MUNDi: Big, Rare, and New to Science by TheFrogBag

Etsy for Animals (EFA) aka Artists Helping Animals,

is a team of independent artists, craftspeople,

vintage sellers and craft suppliers on Etsy.com

who are dedicated to providing charitable relief to animals

by donating a portion of the profits from their shops

to an animal charity of their choosing,

and/or to EFA's featured Charity of the Month.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

ANiMAL MUNDi: Big, Rare, and New to Science by TheFrogBag

Big, Rare, and New to Science

It’s hard to find even a tiny bit of the earth that hasn’t been mapped and explored. Aside from the deep sea, people live and work pretty much everywhere. So how can it be that so many large animals are still being discovered? I recently wrote here about a new species of snub-nosed monkey. Now I’d like to introduce you to an impressive creature from the Philippines, the recently named Northern Sierra Madre forest monitor lizard (Varanus bitatawa). 

Amazingly, this six foot long strikingly colored reptile was only “discovered” three years ago. It had, of course, always been known to the people living on Luzon Island where it’s found. But despite the large number of biologists working in the Philippines it had somehow escaped the notice of the wider world until the 21st century. 

Photo credit: Discovery News

Part of this is the fact that it’s a very, very shy lizard. And part of it is the fact that it lives high in the treetops, seldom venturing to the ground and never crossing open country. This is relatively rare behavior for such a large monitor. Most of its cousins (the most famous of which is the Komodo dragon) chase down prey or sit and wait for it to walk by. This is hard to do high up in the canopy since most of the prey species there have the ability to fly, something that very few lizards possess. 

This monitor gets around that problem by stalking fruit instead, making it one of only three species of these big lizards who are confirmed frugivores. This type of diet also makes it important to its ecosystem since it’s fulfilling a role of played by toucans and tapirs in other parts of the world: spreading seeds far and wide as it digests its meal. 

Sadly, one reason so many new animals are being catalogued is loss of habitat. Many of them live deep in remote forests. But no forest is now so remote that it is immune to logging and hunting. Like the snub-nosed monkey, the Northern Sierra Madre forest lizard was first noticed by a biologist who saw a strange carcass for sale. The lizard had been caught in a snare meant for a wild pig, but such snares are indiscriminate. 

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times

The good news is that finding such unexpected and charismatic species funnels much needed interest and money to conserving their homes. This benefits all of the animals that share the forest, since big lizards need big areas in which to live. 

The world is a strange and wonderful place, full of unexpected life. What else might be waiting to be discovered if we take the time to protect our wild areas instead of logging them ?


  1. Wow, that's wild (literally). It's amazing to think about a lizard that big having a diet of fruit and living in the treetops. Of course then I wonder what it would be like to have one of those bad boys kerplunk out of the tree on your head - eek ;o)
    Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating information. I love this kind of stuff!

  2. The world is indeed a strange and wonderful place - THANKS so much for sharing such fascinating creatures with us.

    One can only hope that they will be protected but changing our consumer habits is just about the most revolutionary thing we can do as individuals so that we are saying no to logging with our pocket books every time we open them !

  3. Good point, Nicole! I try to buy a lot of furniture second hand (that's vintage to you and me ;) ... It won't save the world, but it's a tiny start!

    Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reading, Jen!


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