When a conservationist discovers a new species of animal or re-discovers an elusive one, they are met with a tough choice. They can either take their findings and publish them for millions to read or choose to keep their information among other researchers. But why would they choose the latter? Sadly, animal lovers are not the only ones reading their articles.
Thousands of people use this information to stalk the specimen’s native location, steal them, and sell them in the illegal wildlife trade. The rarer the animal, the better. Unfortunately, this dwindles a small population to an even smaller one. And in 2018, it’s a dragon-esque lizard from Indonesia that many criminals are trying to get their fingers on.
Dinner And A Show
In May of 2008, a crew of researchers was exploring a jungle in Indonesian Borneo. They stopped to take a quick break for some much-needed nourishment. It was relatively silent while mouths were busy chewing until someone noticed a tiny, spiked lizard standing near them.
Then, they proceeded to do something that most of us who are not exploring a jungle in Indonesia would never do. They took turns holding and petting the lizard. The little guy, surprisingly, seemed hardly phased by their curiosity. He was gently returned to his original seat as the scientists continued about their day.
Later, after returning to their rooms, they decided to look through reptile identification books to pinpoint exactly what kind of lizard this could be. The researchers could hardly believe their luck!
The extremely rare earless monitor lizard matched their lunch break buddy. The Lanthanotus borneensis was extremely rare. It was quickly realized that they had stumbled upon a gem.
Quite The Conundrum
The earless monitor lizard had been seen less than 100 times since their discovery in 1877. A few team members compiled details of their experiences with the lizard. This information was then published in a scientific journal in 2012.
The scientists were very careful about providing as little detail as possible about the exact origin of their findings. However, even the smallest amount of information allowed for members of the illegal wildlife trade to pinpoint the location.
Immediately, there seemed to be an increase in online ads of earless monitor lizards. Researchers and conservationists alike started to feel concerned. The lizards were popping up for sale all over the world, from the Czech Republic to Japan to America.
The Double-Edged Sword
Since that time, these tiny “dragons” continue to come across the online sales pages with price tags that go for over $15,000 when the demand is at its highest. But the coverage of the lizards did not solely have negative consequences.
Researchers also brought to light the danger that the lizards are in. Responsible reptile enthusiasts will now be able to spot the illegal trade and sell and report those involved. This is the extremely tough determination that researchers, scientists, and journalists are faced with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be outweighing the rate at which they are being cruelly collected.