Varanus bengalensis 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Squamata Varanidae

Scientific Name: Varanus bengalensis (Daudin, 1802)
Common Name(s):
English Bengal Monitor Lizard, Clouded Monitor, Common Indian Monitor
Monitor gemmatus Guérin-Méneville, 1829
Tupinambis bengalensis Daudin, 1802
Tupinambis cepedianus Daudin, 1802
Varanus punctatus Merrem, 1820
Taxonomic Notes: This species has two subspecies:
V. bengalensis bengalensis (Daudin, 1802).
V. bengalensis nebulosus (Gray, 1831)

V. irrawadicus Yang and Li, 1987 and V. vietnamensis Yang and Liu, 1994 were previously described as nominal species, but both were synonymized with V. bengalensis by Böhme and Ziegler (1997). The same authors raised V. bengalensis nebulosus (Gray, 1831) to full species status based on a V. bengalensis bengalensis specimen obtained from a market in Phuket (which is within the range of V. b. nebulosus), which was thought to prove the sympatry between the two forms, together with differences in hemipenial structure. However, it is widely accepted that it instead represents a geographic race of V. bengalensis, based on a very detailed study of geographic variation in V. bengalensis across its range (Auffenberg 1994).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2009-06-30
Assessor(s): Papenfuss, T., Shafiei Bafti, S., Sharifi, M., Bennett, D. & Sweet, S.S.
Reviewer(s): Cox, N., Temple, H.J. (Global Reptile Assessment Coordinating Team) & Böhm, M., Collen, B., Ram, M. (Sampled Red List Index Coordinating Team)
Contributor(s): De Silva, R., Lewis, S., Lintott, P., Milligan, H.T., Powney, G., Sears, J., Wearn, O.R., Wilson, P., Wren, S. & Zamin, T.
Varanus bengalensis has been assessed as Least Concern. This species has a wide range across south central and Southeast Asia and it inhabits a variety of habitats. However, certain threats are affecting the species, and this has led to eradication in parts of its range. It is hunted for food, for its fat which is used for medicinal purposes, and for its skins which are sold commercially. With increasing human population pressures across this species' range, these threats are likely to become more severe in the future. As a result, further research and monitoring of this species is needed to ensure that a threat category is not triggered in the future. The establishment and management of new protected areas where this species is protected from hunting is needed to provide refuge sites from persecution.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This wide ranging Varanid is found from southeastern Iran, through south central Asia (ranging from Afghanistan in the north as far south as Sri Lanka) and eastwards throughout Southeast Asia, as far as Java and the Anambas Islands in Indonesia. However, in the last century, this species has been exterminated from parts of Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. Although there are some old specimens purportedly from Sumatra, no recent records seem to exist (e.g. Auffenberg 1994). This species has an upper limit of 1,500 m above sea level.
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Jawa, Sumatera); Iran, Islamic Republic of; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):1500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In some agricultural areas, this species has been found to be common (Auffenberg 1989). Density estimates varied greatly between different habitats in northern India and Pakistan, from an average of two individuals per km² recorded on the edge of a seasonally flooded evaporation basin in Rajasthan to just under 40 individuals on average per km² in marsh habitat in Pakistan (Auffenberg 1994). Various techniques were used to derive these estimates, so that the numbers are not directly comparable (Auffenberg 1994). Densities were also found to be relatively high in agricultural habitats, from around 14 to 30 individuals per km² (Auffenberg 1994). In the more arid parts of its range it probably occurs at reasonably low densities. Although present on Java, the species is reportedly very scarce and localized (S. Sweet pers. comm.).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This species is found in a variety of habitats, from desert areas to floodplains, scrubland to forests, at moderate elevations (Auffenberg 1994, Pianka 2004). It can also inhabit agricultural areas (Auffenberg 1994).
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Generation Length (years):11

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is harvested for a number of uses: the skins are commercially valuable, the meat is eaten, and the fat is used in traditional medicine.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species is possibly threatened by habitat destruction, however, as it can utilize a wide range of habitat types this is not considered a major threat at this time. This species is indirectly affected by pesticides which reduce the food resource availability in agricultural areas. However, perhaps the greatest threat to this species is hunting as it is hunted commercially for its skin, and its meat is commonly eaten. The fat of this species is also used in traditional medicine. In Iran, it is killed by people who mistakenly consider it to be dangerous; it is not hunted for food or skins in that country.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species occurs in many protected areas across its extensive range and it is protected in a number of countries by national legislation because it is currently listed on Appendix I of CITES. Further research into the harvest levels, threats, trends and habitat status of this species is needed. The establishment and management of new protected areas where it is illegal to hunt this species should be carried out to provide a refuge from persecution.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.6. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
3. Shrubland -> 3.5. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
3. Shrubland -> 3.6. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Moist
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.2. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent/Irregular Rivers/Streams/Creeks
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.3. Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)
8. Desert -> 8.1. Desert - Hot
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.1. Artificial/Terrestrial - Arable Land
14. Artificial/Terrestrial -> 14.3. Artificial/Terrestrial - Plantations
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.1. Harvest management
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.1. International level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.2. National level
5. Law & policy -> 5.4. Compliance and enforcement -> 5.4.3. Sub-national level

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.1. Intentional use (species is the target)
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.1. Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals -> 5.1.3. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.3. Agricultural & forestry effluents -> 9.3.3. Herbicides and pesticides
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Medicine - human & veterinary
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

♦  Wearing apparel, accessories
 National : ✓  International : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Ahsen, M.F. and Saeed, M.A. 2004. Some aspects of breeding biology of the Bengal Lizard (Varanus bengalensis) in Bangladesh. Asiatic Herpteological Research 10: 236-240.

Anderson, S.C. 1999. The Lizards of Iran. Contributions to Herpetology Volume 15. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Saint Louis, Missouri.

Auffenberg, W. 1989. Utilisation of Monitor Lizards in Pakistan. TRAFFIC Bulletin 11(1): 8-12.

Auffenberg, W. 1994. The Bengal Monitor. University of Florida Press, Gainesville, USA.

Beacham, W., Castronova, F.V., Freedman, B. and Sessine, S. (eds). 2001. Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species. Gale Research, Detroit.

Böhme, W. and Ziegler, T. 1997. On the synonymy and taxonomy of the Bengal monitor lizard, Varanus bengalensis (Daudin, 1802) complex (Sauria: Varanidae). Amphibia-Reptilia 18: 207-211.

Gaulke, M. and de Silva, A. 1977. Monitor lizards of Sri Lanka: Preliminary investigations on their population structure. Lyriocephalus 3(1): 1-5.

Gupta, B.K. 1996. Trade of Bengal Monitor Varanus bengalensis in Uttar Pradesh, India. Tigerpaper 23(1): 1-3.

Hudson, R., Alberts, A., Ellis, S. and Byers, O. 1994. Conservation Assessment and Management Plan for Iguanidae and Varanidae. IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, Minnesota.

IUCN. 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2010.4). Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2010).

King, D. and Green B. 1999. Monitors: The Biology of Varanus Lizards. Krieger Publishing Company, Florida.

Nawaz, M. and Nawaz, Y. 2003. Monitor lizard (Varanidae: Reptilia) in Baluchistan, Pakistan. Tigerpaper 30(3): 28-30.

Pianka, E.R. 2004. Varanus bengalensis. In: Pianka, E.R. and King, D.R. (eds), Varanoid lizards of the world, pp. 157-160. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, USA.

Sindaco, R. and Jeremčenko, V.K. 2008. The Reptiles of the Western Palearctic. 1. Annotated Checklist and Distributional Atlas of the Turtles, Crocodiles, Amphibians and Lizards of Europe, North Africa, Middle East and Central Asia. Edizioni Belvedere, Latina (Italy).

Citation: Papenfuss, T., Shafiei Bafti, S., Sharifi, M., Bennett, D. & Sweet, S.S. 2010. Varanus bengalensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T164579A5909661. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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