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Asian Monitor Lizard Captured in Hawaii

The water monitor was probably a hitchhiker on a cargo plane from Malaysia.

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A lizard identified by the state of Hawaii’s department of Agriculture as an Asian or Malayan water monitor(Varanus salvator) was captured June 27 on Oahu’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Air Force Base.

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According to KHON2, service personnel with the Hawaii Air National Guard first saw the lizard running on its hind legs in a maintenance shop near the base’s airfield and were initially unsuccessful in capturing it. Hawaii Department of Agriculture inspectors were called June 28 and captured the lizard, which measured 18 inches in length.

Equipment from Malaysia recently arrived and it is suspected that the lizard was a hitchhiker.

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Hawaii already has an impressive list of invasive species and the Asian water monitor, if it were to become established in the islands, could potentially threaten native Hawaiian bird species. The state had a close call several years ago when a gravid Asian water monitor nearly escaped into Manoa Valley, a lush region of Oahu that would provide ideal habitat for the lizard. Hawaii’s vertebrate specialist Keevin Minami was chasing the female through a residential car port next to a mountainside. Minami told Hana Hou magazine if he didn’t turn the way he did, the lizard would have escaped.

Water monitors are native to Eastern India and Sri Lanka, eastward through southeast Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They can grow to more than 8 feet in length, though most average around 5 feet in length.


John B. Virata currently keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata