Sepik monitor, Peach·throated monitor.
The Sepik monitor is usually known by the name of V karlschmidti
(Mertens 1951). Bohme (1991)
recognised that Mertens had redescribed an animal
originally named by Ahl (1932). This is another species about which very littlie is known. They can be distinguished from V.indicus
possession of smaller scales. particularly on the neck and sides of the head, the bright red
tongue with a black or light tip. the light colouration of the throat and the shape of the head.
which is slimmer than in V.indicus
and reminiscent of V.salvator
or even V.rudicollis
(Mertens 1951 . Horn 1977). The light colour of the throat is much more noticeable when the
lizards are annoyed and their throats are expanded . It reaches a length of at least 120cm TL
Merlens noted that Sepik monitors were sympatric with mangrove monitors around
Marienberg on the Sepik River. where available habitats include swamps, rainforests and
grasslands. but how the ecologies of these animals differ is unknown. In captivity these
lizards have been observed to be vigourous diggers (Horn 1977), and it could be surmised
that the Sepik monitor is less aquatic in habit than the mangrove monitor. However they also
like to sleep in mud. preferring it to water. Unfortunately observations of this species in the
wild are entirely lacking. Whitaker et al
(1982) record the species from the Eastern and
Western Highlands and East and West Sepik Provinces in New Guinea. Mertens (1959,
1971) and Swanson (in Horn 1977) also record specimens from Lae and Bulolo in Morobe
Province (Horn (1977) gives "Eastern Highlands District" for Bulolo) and Brown River in
Central Province. No exact locations in Irian Jaya have been recorded except for the location
of the type specimen of V.jobiensis
; Yapan off the northern coast (Ahl 1932). The few data
available strongly suggest that this monitor is widespread throughout the island except
perhaps in the swamps and grasslands of the south. Horn (1977) notes that all specimens to
date have been found in rainforests close to lakes at elevations of less than 1000m. A field
study of these animals and their counterparts would be highly rewarding.
In colouration the Sepik monitor shows a great deal of variation. "Peach-throated" monitors
have throats that range from white through yellow to red but are always lighter than the body
colour. Melanistic animals with reduced pattern are known, they may be found in coastal
regions, but accurate location data is lacking in almost all V.jobiensis
known . Some
specimens are breathtakingly beautiful. Colour pictures of this lizard can be found in Hom
(1977) and Sprackland (1992).
In captivity this species tends to be shy and nervous, but usually groups of animals can be
housed together safely. They will eat insects, small mammals. frogs and freshwater fish.
Frogs are consumed avidly in captivity and may be an important food in the wild. Like other
New Guinea monitor lizards they need to be maintained at a high temperature and with high
humidity. The Sepik monitor has a reputation for doing poorly in captivity. Newly imported
specimens are heavily loaded with a myriad of potentially lethal parasites, especially nasty
amoebas. They need immediate and regular attention from a vet and should be dosed liberally
with drugs until the prognosis is clear.