Save Indonesian Monitor Lizards from Exotic Pet Trade


Target: Indonesian Environment Minister Dr Balthasar Kambuaya

Goal: Enforce laws to protect monitors from over-exploitation in the pet trade.

Monitor lizards in Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia face many conservation threats including over-exploitation from the exotic pet trade. The pet trade impacts more monitor species than the skin trade, although the latter is still one of the leading threats to the survival of monitor populations, along with habitat destruction. The rain forest habitat of monitors is endangered due to logging, mining, road projects, and farming. Pressure from the pet trade has amplified monitors’ vulnerability to extinction as hundreds of thousands of adult lizards, their eggs, and hatchlings are taken from their natural environment, depleting wild populations. Most of the animals end up dying in transport.

Monitors are appealing as pets for their dragon-like appearance, striking colors, rareness, high intelligence, and the impressive size of some species. Unfortunately, most traders and consumers are uninformed about providing these animals with quality care and they overlook the risks associated with keeping wildlife as pets. Many of the live monitors exported to foreign countries die lingering deaths in unsuitable, crowded enclosures that are not warm enough. Only about one in three monitors in the exotic pet trade actually make it into the market.

The under-regulated trade of wildlife threatens the survival of various monitor species in Indonesia because legislation is unclear and incomplete. Many authorities regulating the trade of monitor lizards often lack adequate knowledge about the different species, including identification, habitat distribution, threats, and their conservation status. Export quotas for monitors and their eggs are frequently ignored. Please urge Indonesia to increase its protection of monitors through stricter regulations and clear laws that limit the trade of wild caught animals.


Dear Indonesian Environment Minister Dr. Balthasar Kambuaya,

The poorly regulated trade of wild caught monitor lizards and their eggs is an unsustainable and wasteful practice that is depleting wild populations and placing animals in unacceptable conditions during transport, where many of them die before they reach market. The populations of several Indonesian monitor species are already threatened by habitat destruction. Allowing the export of hundreds of thousands of monitors despite international regulations that prohibit their commercial trade under the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species is incompatible with their survival in the wild.

Unless the trade of wildlife species including monitors is subject to strict regulation, Indonesia could lose its impressive biodiversity that is a source of national pride and an indicator of ecosystem health. I urge you to implement laws that protect wild monitors from being caught for trade. Please clarify laws and enforce them by revising and monitoring quotas and investigating traders and poachers.

Increasing data collection of habitat distribution, population sizes, threats, and conservation status assessment along with knowledge of identifying the different species of monitors will improve conservation efforts. Dealers currently take advantage of the limited information that has been collected by the government of Indonesia and conservation agencies. By taking these measures you can protect these magnificent animals and realize your Ministry’s goal of decreasing the rate of damage to biodiversity.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Kim CW Hanson via Flickr

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