German National Arrested in Indonesia on Suspicion of Smuggling Earless Monitor Lizards

Earless monitor lizards are protected in their range states of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia. Photo © Ch'ien C. Lee / Rainforest Pictures of Tropical Asia
Earless monitor lizards are protected in their range states of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia. Photo © Ch’ien C. Lee / Rainforest Pictures of Tropical Asia

JAKARTA — A German national has been arrested at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in possession of eight Earless Monitor Lizards concealed on his body as he attempted to smuggle them out of Jakarta, Indonesia. One of the lizards had already perished.

The arrest took place on 11 October 2015, just over a year after TRAFFIC warned of the emerging global trade in Borneo’s remarkable subterranean lizard.

A German connection to the trade in Earless Monitor Lizards (Lanthanotus borneensis) already exists. 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.

However, none of the range countries has permitted the export of this species, so parent stock in any breeding facilities has not been legally obtained. As this latest case demonstrates, animals are still being sourced from the wild, explains Sarah Stoner, TRAFFIC’s Senior Wildlife Crime Analyst.

“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.”

Although protected in all three of its known and potential range States — Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia — once Earless Monitor Lizards have been illegally removed from the wild and smuggled out of their range, no legislation is currently in place to protect them adequately from exploitation on the international market.

The Malaysian Government is behind moves to secure the listing of Earless Monitor Lizards in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which would ban all commercial international trade in the species.

“TRAFFIC applauds Sarawak State and the Malaysian government for taking the lead with the CITES listing of Earless Monitor Lizards and sincerely hopes that it will gain the support needed by other governments, especially trading partners in the EU to end this illegal trade,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, a Senior Programme Manager with TRAFFIC.

The EU recently included the Earless Monitor Lizard among the Preliminary list of species which may warrant further consideration in preparation for CoP17 (PDF). CoP17 is the next Conference of the Parties to CITES, scheduled to take place in September to October 2016.

“TRAFFIC urges consumer countries, particularly Germany, to collaborate with the range States to safeguard nationally protected wildlife.”

According to Indonesia’s National Police Head Commissioner the animals in the latest case had been purchased in Kalimantan, Borneo for a pittance. In Germany the species has been advertised for sale priced at thousands of Euros.




TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, is the leading non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. TRAFFIC’s mission is to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature.