The Reptiles of the Philippines
The Philippine cobra image source
The Philippines, a tropical country located South of Asia is home to about 232 recorded species of reptiles and amphibians. Of the 114 species of snakes, there are about less than 20 species of them are poisonous, of which the cobra, pit viper and coral snakes are widely distributed all over the country. Paddle-tailed sea snakes are found throughout Philippine waters and are presumed poisonous, even though Filipino fishermen remove them from their nets using their bare hands. Pythons are found in areas not disturbed by man, and are much prized by as an exotic culinary delicacy.
Philippine monitor image source
The Philippine monitor lizard, locally called as bayawak, and the little gecko, also known locally as butiki are the two most interesting lizards in the Philippines. The monitor often grows to four or five feet in size, and eats insects, animals, and carrion or animal carcass. It was considered a nuisance in inhabited areas especially in livestock farms, as it preys on poultry, now this species can rarely be seen and is listed as one of the endangered species. The bayawak is also prized as an exotic meat delicacy in some specialized exotic food restaurants. Just recently, as reported in Science Daily (May 19, 2010) a group of German scientists have discovered three new species of monitor lizards from the Philippines. As published in a taxonomic zoology journal Zootaxa, German Scientist Andre Koch says, "After the spectacular discovery of several new monitor lizards from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi three years ago, our results now illustrate that the diversity of water monitor lizards in the Philippines has also been largely underestimated." Dr Wolfgang Böhme, who has been studying monitor lizards for more than two decades now, adds,"It's amazing that these largest living lizards of the world have been neglected for so long and that new species come up time and again. It shows that even with large vertebrates not all species of our planet are recognized and named. There are too few experts in the world, the education level at universities is declining and the essential knowledge about the global biodiversity stands to get lost!"
Varanus bitatawa (new monitor specie) image source
The gecko, on the other hand, is welcome in the Filipino home for being an industrious insect catcher. Newcomers to the Philippines are sometimes amazed to see a gecko run up a smooth wall and across a ceiling to stalk its insect meal.
butiki image source
Geckos figure prominently in Filipino folklore. Their call is superstitiously believed to forewarn the household of a visitor. Some also believe that finding a gecko’s tail (which it sheds easily) reputedly brings good luck. When familiar geckos leave a house, it was believed to be a warning that a member of the household will die.
Crocodiles as found in brackish water and swamps at the mouths of rivers, making swimming or wading dangerous in these areas. For a time, the population of Philippine crocodiles dwindled extremely, caused by the commercial demand for their skins both locally and internationally. But the government was able to revive the crocodile population with the introduction of the crocodile farming industry. Now, there are several crocodile farms established around the country to serve this commercial livelihood purpose.