And a pair of infant orangutans were returned to Indonesia on Tuesday after being confiscated from smugglers in Malaysia.

  • The earless monitor lizard has been described as a “holy grail” for reptile collectors.
  • The German man’s arrest is not the first indicator of a German connection in the international trade in the species.
  • Wildlife monitors say the notion that the lizards are being “captive bred” is a myth to slip them past national borders.

A German national was apprehended at the international airport in Jakarta as he tried to smuggle eight earless monitor lizards from Borneo out of the country.

It was not the first indication of a German connection to the international trade in Earless Monitor Lizards (Lanthanotus borneensis), a small, orange-brown creature with beaded skin, subterranean habits and translucent “windows” on its lower eyelids.

A posting about the earless monitor lizard on Facebook. Image courtesy of TRAFFIC
A posting about the earless monitor lizard on Facebook. Image courtesy of TRAFFIC

“In July 2015, a USA-based trader selling the species claimed the animals had been imported from Germany and captive-bred there—presumably to circumvent the US Lacey Act,” said a statement from TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network. The Lacey Act bans trafficking in illegal wildlife.

None of the countries with territory in Borneo has permitted the export of the lizard, “so parent stock in any breeding facilities has not been legally obtained,” according to TRAFFIC.

“International investigations are essential to debunk the myth that reptiles are being ‘captive bred’, whereas in reality claims of captive breeding are frequently used as a cover to enable the animals to be traded internationally, unchallenged,” said Sarah Stoner, TRAFFIC’s senior wildlife crime analyst.

Reptile collectors in Europe, where the animal can sell for thousands of euros, have referred to it as a “holy grail,” according to a TRAFFIC study that began in 2013 and documented a sudden uptick in international interest in the species.