It happened when a research crew armed with GPS units, notebooks, and binoculars set out right into a dense patch of jungle in Indonesian Borneo. An oil palm firm had commissioned them to survey the realm for vital environmental and cultural assets that are likely to be impacted ought to the forest be transformed right into a plantation. They’d like no concept, nevertheless, that a “distinctive herpetofaunal discovery” awaited them that morning, they later wrote.
As midday approached, the group determined to take a break from their uphill trek to have lunch after a shallow, rocky stream mattress. Glancing on the creek between bites, one of many native crew members noticed one thing of note: a brownish-yellow reptile, a few feet lengthy, that he referred to easily as kadal—the generic Indonesian word for “lizard.” The partially submerged creature had the elongated, snakelike physique of a Chinese dragon, the facial options of a cartoon dinosaur, and the pronounced scales of a mini-alligator.
For a couple of minutes, the unusual customer turned the primary target of consideration because the group photographed it and gently handed it round. To their amazement, it hardly struggled and didn’t attempt to chuck them. Lunch quickly resumed precedence, although, and so they put the creature again into the stream, the place it sat, unmoving, for the subsequent hour. Because of the group ready to depart, one of many workforce members glanced again for a remaining look and famous that it had disappeared.
It wasn’t till the researchers returned to their computer systems and reptile identification books that they realized the significance of what they’d discovered: the mystery creature was, in fact, the elusive earless monitor lizard, Lanthanotus borneensis (actually, “hidden ear from Borneo,” named for its lack of exterior ear openings). Till just lately, scientists and collectors had captured fewer than a hundred specimens because of the species’ 1877 discovery. Amongst reptile fans, its rarity and mystique have earned it a grandiose nickname: “the Holy Grail of herpetology.”