Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in Devon has welcomed four blue tree monitor lizards to its reptile collection.
One of only three zoo’s in the UK with the species, Paignton’s blue tree monitors are a first for the charity zoo.
With long, slender claws, snaking tail and unnatural colouring, the blue tree monitor is as strange as it is striking. The four monitors, all around five years old, are two feet long nose to tail, and can be seen in zoo’s Reptile Nursery.
Little is known about the blue tree monitor in the wild, which was only discovered in 2001, and it is yet to be assessed for threats and risk of extinction as a species.
The details of its natural history remain largely a mystery, including what it eats in the wild, but its diet may include stick insects, crickets, grasshoppers, moths, beetles and small lizards. No one knows how or why they developed such a striking pattern or are blue, a difficult colour for animals to produce.
The blue tree monitor (Varanus macraei) comes from the tiny island of Batanta in Indonesia. It was named after herpetologist Duncan R. MacRae, Males can grow to around a metre, and the tail, which is almost twice the length of the body, is prehensile and is used to grip tree branches.
For more information on visiting Paignton Zoo go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.