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Target Species: Salvador’s monitor lizard, Varanus salvadori
Location: Western Province, Papua New Guinea
Director: Jon Stephens


Location: Western Province, southwestern Papua New Guinea.

Mission Statement:

Mark and monitor lizard expert Dr Robert Sprackland are on the trail of a lizard which grows longer than the Komodo dragon, Varanus komodoensis. A giant of a lizard with unusual Tyranosaurus rex-like teeth and amazing tree-climbing abilities, Salvador’s monitor lizard, or the ‘tree crocodile’ as it is known locally, is a much feared creature which reputedly leaps down from the trees and to kill pigs, deer and even valuable hunting dogs. Despite several visits to Papua New Guinea (PNG) Mark has only met with a pair of tree crocodiles and they were captive specimens at a crocodile farm. He and Robert are keen to try and capture and examine a truly wild specimen of one of the largest but least known lizards in the world. With the help of expert Papuan trackers and hunters, led by a charismatic headman, they search the expansive savanna woodlands and crocodile infested water ways of the Binaturi, Bensbach and Fly River systems.

En route Mark knows there are many opportunities to find other fascinating and rare reptiles because he and Robert are visiting the remote and little explored Western Province of PNG, near the West Papuan (formerly Irian Jayan) border. Mark has seen all of New Guinea’s python species except the Water python found on these seasonally flooded southern savannas, but even Mark was not expecting to find the confusing species he encounters here.


Salvador’s monitor lizard, (Varanus salvadori), has a long, forked chemo-sensory snake-like tongue as do all monitor lizards.

Species recorded during 'Tree Crocodile'

Species Common Name
BUFONIDAE TRUE TOADS
Bufo marinus Cane toad
MYOBATRACHIDAE SOUTHERN FROGS
Crinia remota Paperbark froglet
Lechriodus melanopyga Black-rumped slant-tooth frog
Limnodynastes convexisculus Marbled frog
HYLIDAE TREEFROGS
Litoria congenita New Guinea savanna treefrog
Litoria infrafrenata White-lipped treefrog
Litoria nigrofrenata Bridled frog
RANIDAE TRUE FROGS
Rana daemeli Damel's pond frog
Rana sp. (PNG) (unidentified Western stream frog
MICROHYLIDAE BURROWING FROGS
Phrynomantis sp. (PNG) (unidentified Western burrowing frog)
Sphenophryne gracilipes Slender wedge-shaped frog
CHELIDAE FRESHWATER TURTLES
Emydura novaeguineae New Guinea short-neck turtle
Emydura subglobosa Red-bellied short-neck turtle
CROCODYLIDAE CROCODILES
Crocodylus novaeguineae New Guinea crocodile
Crocodylus porosus Estuarine crocodile
GEKKONIDAE GECKOES
Gehyra variegata Tree dtella or Variegated dtella
Hemidactylus frenatus Common house gecko
Nactus pelagicus Pelagic gecko
PYGOPODIDAE SNAKE LIZARDS
Lialis burtonis Burton's snake-lizard
SCINCIDAE SKINKS
Carlia bicarinata Bicarinate four-fingered skink
Carlia fusca Brown four-fingered skink
Cryptoblepharus virgatus Cream-striped snake-eyed skink
Emoia tropidolepis Keel-scaled skink
Eugongylus rufescens Brown sheen skink
Glaphyromorphus nigricaudis Black-tailed skink
Lygisaurus macfarlani New Guinea litter skink
Prasinohaema flavipes Yellow-footed green-blooded skink
Sphenomorphus fragilis Fragile skink
AGAMIDAE DRAGONS
Chlamydosaurus kingii Frilled lizard
Diporiphora bilineata Northern two-lined dragon
Hypsilurus dilophus Twin-crested anglehead
Lophura temporalis Twin-striped lashtail dragon
VARANIDAE MONITOR LIZARDS
Varanus doreanus Blue-tailed monitor
Varanus indicus Mangrove monitor
Varanus panoptes horni New Guinea argus monitor
Varanus prasinus Emerald tree monitor
PYTHONIDAE PYTHONS
Antaresia maculosa Spotted dwarf python
Morelia amethistina Amethystine python
COLUBRIDAE TYPICAL SNAKES
Boiga irregularis Brown treesnake
Dendrelaphis calligastra Green treesnake
Dendrelaphis punctulatus Common treesnake
Stegonotus cucullatus Slatey-grey snake
Tropidonophis mairii plumbea Western common keelback
Tropidonophis multiscutallatus Many-scaled keelback
ELAPIDAE COBRAS & THEIR KIN
Demansia vestigata New Guinea whipsnake
Pseudechis papuanus Papuan blacksnake
Pseudechis sp. (PNG) (unidentified Western blacksnake)


Location: Our search stretched from Girigarande to Weam on the West Papuan, formerly Irian Jayan, border.

 

 


Monitor lizard expert Robert Sprackland in a village hut at Girigarande.

 


Mark O’Shea asks hunters to inform him if they see Salvador’s monitor lizard.

 

 


O’Shea dug this Argus monitor lizard (Varanus panoptes horni) out from under a riverside log.

 

 


Frilled lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingi) are found in southern Papua New Guinea.

 

 


O’Shea caught this large Amethystine python (Morelia amethistina) in the Binaturi River.

 


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