We update an earlier review (Mertens 1959) of the monitor lizards of Southeast Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago, emphasizing the importance of this island region as a center of varanid diversity and endemism. Currently, 44 monitor lizard species (i.e., 60% of the known global varanid diversity) are recognized from this vast study region. New Guinea and the surrounding offshore islands harbor the highest diversity in terms of species (15) and subgenera (four). We provide a detailed identification key to all monitor lizards found in the study area. Moreover, we critically review the conservation status of all monitor lizard species involved as needed in light of urgent conservation issues. Major threats to monitor lizards include: (1) habitat destruction; (2) the international trade in reptile skins and in monitors as pets; and (3) human consumption. Current export figures of seven focal monitor species (i.e., Varanus beccarii, V. boehmei, V. macraei, V. melinus, V. prasinus, V. salvator, and V. yuwonoi) of the commercial skin and pet trade reflect export allowances that are not based on sound information from population studies, meaning that current harvest levels may be unsustainable and could threaten the viability of these Indonesian island endemics. Therefore, these monitor lizard species require special attention by the relevant authorities and conservationists of both the source and the consuming countries. The conservation status of all monitor lizard species and their assessment in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List is in need of a critical update and we strongly recommend the establishment of an IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Monitor Specialist Group. Therefore, this review of distribution, threats, and conservation status of Southeast Asian and Indo-Australian monitor lizards is intended to support customs officers and other government agents in: (1) more strictly enforcing the regulations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); (2) monitoring trade activities, annual harvest levels, and export quotas; (3) in reducing current unsustainable harvest levels; and, (4) in reducing over-exploitation and extinction risks of Varanus spp. in the wild.
Key Words.— conservation status; deforestation impact; Indonesia; New Guinea; Philippines; species diversity; trade impact
Koch, André, Thomas Ziegler, Wolfgange Böhme, Evy Arida, and Mark Auliya. 2013. Pressing Problems: Distribution, threats, and conservation status of the monitor lizards (Varanidae: Varanus spp.) of Southeast Asia and the Indo-Australian Archipelago. Herpetological Conservation and Biology. 8(Monograph 3):1-62.