Friday, October 7, 2011

Varanus Macraei Breeding and Distribution

Varanus macraei was only recently described by Böhme and Jacobs (2001) and is known only from Batanta Island, northwest of the Vogelkop Peninsula of Irian Jaya, Indonesian New Guinea. The species belongs to the emerald tree monitor (V. prasinus) group, which is currently comprised of nine species: V. prasinus, V. beccarii, V. kordensis, V. bogerti, V. keithhornei, V. telenesetes, V. macraei, V. boehmei and V. reisingeri (Ziegler et al., 2007). Varanus macraei is a large, slender tree monitor with smooth, unkeeled nuchal scales and a unique dorsal color pattern consisting of numerous oblique, irregular rows of blue ocelli on a black ground color.

Varanus Macraei
Maximum size is 110 cm in total length, with a maximum snout vent length (SVL) of 36 cm in males and 31.3 cm in females (Böhme & Jacobs, 2004). Varanus macraei is a diurnal, highly specialized tree monitor, as are the other members of the V. prasinus group. Because the size of Batanta Island is only 455 km², with a maximum length of 61 km and a maximum width of 13 km, V. macraei has one of the smallest distributions among Varanus, and virtually nothing is known about its habitat and natural history (Böhme & Jacobs, 2001; 2004).

Varanus Macraei
The first breeding of V. macraei in captivity was published by Jacobs (2002). Further breeding successes in private  facilities were subsequently published by Dedlmar (2007) and Moldovan (2008). Moreover, Mendyk (2007) reported on dizygotic twinning in V. macraei and Dedlmar (2008) on a two-headed hatchling. However, to our knowledge, there have been no documented zoo breedings of this rare and certainly endangered species. Thus, the first successful zoo breedings of V. macraei, at the Plzen and Cologne Zoos are herein reported.


On 21 January 2004, the Plzen Zoo received a subadult pair of V. macraei, which was sent from Jakarta and subsequently confiscated at Prague airport. In April 2009, the female specimen measured 300 mm SVL and
620 mm tail length (TL) (920 mm in total length), the male measured 330 mm SVL and 660 mm TL (990
mm in total length). Three years later, in January 2007, Cologne Zoo received a confiscated pair of adult V.
macraei from the Wildtier- und Artenschutzstation e.V. Sachsenhagen in Germany. On 28 April 2009, the female specimen  measured 275 mm SVL and 575 mm TL (850 mm in total length), the male measured 290 mm SVL and 640 mm TL (930 mm in total length).

Both wild-caught pairs made up the unrelated breeding stocks of the Plzen and Cologne Zoos. Both  breeding pairs from Plzen and Cologne are undoubtedly members of the V. prasinus group and assignable to the species macraei due to their prehensile tails which are roundish in cross section, in combination with unkeeled, smooth neck scales, dorsal patterns consisting of transversal rows of blue ocelli, and tails bearing alternating blue and black bands (Ziegler et al., 2007).


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