27.1 C
Brunei
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
27.1 C
Brunei
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
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    Treasured find in Green Jewel

    Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) field assistants recently made an unexpected ‘living fossil’ discovery in Temburong, dubbed the ‘Green Jewel of Brunei’.

    The Borneo Earless Monitor (Lanthanotus borneensis) is a rare Bornean endemic lizard, the only known species in the family Lanthanoidae, an ancient lineage of lizards.

    This is the first time the lizard has been discovered in the Sultanate. The rare discovery was made by Justin Jeffrey and Jerry Wong, who braved a heavy thunderstorm in search of reptiles on October 4 evening.

    The pair chanced upon the earless monitor lizard in a primary forest in Ulu Temburong, clinging to a tree root near a torrential stream.

    Realising the significance of the discovery, Jeffrey said, “Rough skinned, prehensile tail – this must be – no cannot be – it is!”

    This is the first time the Borneo Earless Monitor has been discovered in the Sultanate. PHOTO: UBD
    Justin Jeffrey and Jerry Wong with the earless monitor lizard. PHOTO: UBD

    This discovery highlights the value of the continuous impact of UBD’s Faculty of Science (FOS) and the Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER) in science and conservation.

    On hearing the news, Professor Dr Ulmar Grafe from FOS, who specialises in amphibians and reptiles, commented: “This is probably the biggest reptile find coming out of Brunei – ever.”

    First described in 1878 from specimens near Kuching, East Malaysia, they are estimated to have been around since the mid-Cretaceous or 100 million years.

    Despite the name, earless monitors are capable of hearing, although they lack visible external ears.

    Similar to snakes, they have a forked tongue that is used to smell their food. So far, this small monitor has been found only in the coastal lowlands of northern Sarawak and West Kalimantan.

    The lizard is fully protected by the 1984 Brunei Wildlife Protection Act due to conservation efforts of the Wildlife Unit at the Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism (MPRT).

    It is hoped that other endangered animals, such as the Sunda Pangolin, will also receive full protection by including them in an updated Wildlife Protection Act. Illegal wildlife trade is a serious offence and the collective should not turn a blind eye to it.

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