Varanus indicus species-complex

Varanus indicus species-complex

Sago Monitor (Varanus obor)

Varanus obor represents the first melanistic member of the indicus-complex to be named. With its description - based on a specimen collected during the 19th Century and labeled Varanus indicus - and with a lack of any other records of indicus from these islands, it now appears that Varanus indicus sensu stricto is absent from the Sula Islands (Weijola & Sweet 2010).

This species is most commonly found in coastal areas in sago palm (Metroxylon sagu) swamps, hence the species’ common name. They can also be found in other types of forests, excluding mangroves (Weijola & Sweet 2010). This species appears to be rather arboreal, but does much of its foraging on the ground.

Distinctive Features (from Weijola & Sweet 2010)

Background color: Dark brown to black

Dorsal pattern: Small tan to yellowish spots, arranged irregularly but most prevalent at the nape

Tail pattern: Pale but very indistinct (almost appearing absent) narrow bands

Throat/ventral pattern: Ventral surface dark grey, possessing pale transverse bands; throat dark brown with up to eight irregular white patches

Post-ocular stripe: Absent (Note: The most distinctive feature of this species is a variable amount of orange to orange-red coloration present on the snout anterior to the eye)

Tongue color: Pink with a dark tip


Known only from the island of Sanana in the Sula Islands, Indonesia.


Photos courtesy of Valter Weijola.

Imported juveniles. Photos courtesy of Joe Whigham.

Status in Captivity

This species has, unfortunately, been observed in the pet trade less than a year after its formal description, often sold under the name 'black melinus' (It must be stated that this title is merely a dealer name and the animals are in fact V. obor and not dark specimens of Varanus melinus). This is unfortunate due to the extremely small size of this species' natural range which could make them susceptible to over-collecting. Also, unlike many other indicus-complex animals which are more-or-less singular in pattern, the unique appearance of this species may make it more desirable to collectors. Hopefully the species will eventually become established in captivity in the near future.


Weijola, V. S. A. & S. S. Sweet (2010): A new melanistic species of monitor lizard (Reptilia: Squamata: Varanidae) from Sanana Island, Indonesia. Zootaxa 2434: 17-32.