Photo of the Month: Butaan (Gray’s Monitor)

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Gray’s monitor hatchling; PHOTO CREDIT: Ian Recchio

The Gray’s monitor, known locally as the butaan, is a shy, mostly arboreal lizard endemic to the Philippines. Young lizards survive on snails, insects, and crabs; as they mature, the monitors shift to a more frugivorous diet that includes ripe seasonal fruits that have fallen to the ground.

Thought to be extinct for 130 years, the butaan was rediscovered in the Philippine Islands in 1976. Little is known about the reproduction of this species, and it is on display at only four zoos outside of the islands. Until the hatching of the clutch pictured above, the only report of breeding outside of the Philippines was a single baby hatched at the Dallas Zoo in 1994.

The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens’ adult monitors can be seen on exhibit in the LAIR; the three recently-hatched babies are currently off exhibit at the Zoo’s reptile holding facility where another clutch of eggs is due to hatch in this month.  Once the babies are established, the Zoo plans to share its knowledge of this rare species and expand the breeding program in the U.S.