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Biawak

Biawak adalah sebangsa reptil yang masuk ke dalam golongan kadal besar, suku biawak-biawakan (Varanidae). Biawak dalam bahasa lain disebut sebagai bayawak (Sunda), menyawak atau nyambik (Jawa), berekai (Madura), dan monitor lizard atau goanna (Inggris).


Biawak banyak macamnya. Yang terbesar dan terkenal ialah biawak komodo (Varanus komodoensis), yang panjangnya dapat melebihi 3 m. Biawak ini, karena besarnya, dapat memburu rusa, babi hutan dan anak kerbau. Bahkan ada kasus-kasus di mana biawak komodo menyerang manusia, meskipun jarang. Biawak ini hanya menyebar terbatas di beberapa pulau kecil di Nusa Tenggara, seperti di p. Komodo, p. Padar, p. Rinca dan di ujung barat p. Flores.

Biawak yang kerap ditemui di desa-desa dan perkotaan di Indonesia barat kebanyakan adalah biawak air dari jenis Varanus salvator. Panjang tubuhnya (moncong hingga ujung ekor) umumnya hanya sekitar 1 m lebih sedikit, meskipun ada pula yang dapat mencapai 2,5 m.

Habitat dan Makanan

Biawak umumnya menghuni tepi-tepi sungai atau saluran air, tepian danau, pantai, dan rawa-rawa termasuk rawa bakau. Di perkotaan, biawak kerap pula ditemukan hidup di gorong-gorong saluran air yang bermuara ke sungai.

Biawak memangsa aneka serangga, ketam atau yuyu, berbagai jenis kodok, ikan, kadal, burung, serta mamalia kecil seperti tikus dan cerurut. Biawak pandai memanjat pohon. Di hutan bakau, biawak kerap mencuri telur atau memangsa anak burung. Biawak juga memakan bangkai, telur kura-kura, penyu atau buaya.

Kehidupan Biawak

Biawak berkembang biak dengan bertelur. Sebelum mengawini betinanya, biawak jantan biasanya berkelahi lebih dulu untuk memperlihatkan penguasaannya. Pertarungan biawak ini unik dan menarik, karena dilakukan sambil ‘berdiri’. Kedua biawak itu lalu saling pukul atau saling tolak sambil berdiri pada kaki belakangnya, sehingga tampak seperti menari bersama.

Telur-telur biawak disimpan di pasir atau lumpur di tepian sungai, bercampur dengan daun-daun busuk dan ranting. Panas dari sinar matahari dan proses pembusukan serasah akan menghangatkan telur, sehingga menetas.

Biawak dan Manusia

Biawak telah ratusan bahkan ribuan tahun diburu manusia. Orang terutama memanfaatkan kulitnya sebagai bahan perhiasan, dan dagingnya sebagai bahan makanan atau untuk obat. Pada waktu kini, perdagangan kulit biawak telah menghidupi beribu-ribu orang, mulai dari penangkap biawak di desa-desa, pengumpul, pengolah, eksportir, hingga industri kulit. Tidak kurang dari satu juta potong kulit biawak air dikumpulkan setiap tahunnya dari berbagai bagian dunia (Shine et al. 1996, Biological Conservation 77 : 125-134).
Biawak ditangkap orang dengan cara dijerat atau dikail. Jerat atau kail itu dipasang di tempat yang sering didatangi biawak. Seperti umumnya daging kadal, daging biawak juga dipercaya sebagai obat sakit kulit.

Jenis-jenis Biawak

Suku Varanidae terdiri atas dua kelompok yang sedikit berbeda, yalah dari marga Varanus yang besar (lebih dari 35 spesies di seluruh dunia), dan marga Lanthanotus yang sejauh ini berisi spesies tunggal L. borneensis dari Kalimantan. Marga yang kedua itu merupakan biawak yang bertubuh kecil (lk. 30 cm) dan tanpa lubang telinga.
Beberapa jenis biawak yang terdapat di Indonesia:

    • biawak komodo (Varanus komodoensis)
    • biawak kelabu (V. nebulosus)
    • biawak hitam (V. rudicollis)
    • biawak air (V. salvator)

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