10 Fascinating Reptiles That Can Be Found In Malaysia


Malaysia is a wonderful country home to hundreds of different unique reptiles. From monitors to geckos, snakes, and turtles, Malaysia seems to have it all. Today we’ll be talking about just 10 of these reptile species, but if you’d like a part 2 to this list please comment down below and let us know, as well as let us know if you think a specific reptile should be included in part 2. Keep reading to learn about, and see, the reptiles that made the list.

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Top 10 List – Malaysia Reptiles

1. Paradise Flying Snake

Scientific Name: Chrysopelea paradisi
Geographic Range: Brunei Darussalam, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
Conservation Status: Least Concern

First on our list of Malaysian reptiles is the paradise flying snake. Part of their scientific name, paradisi, is named after either the Latin word “paradisus” or the Greek word “paradeisos”, which both mean park. They were given this name probably because they were discovered in a park. This means the common name was probably given because it looks like the word paradise, not because of the actual meaning.

They can be found in a variety of habitats such as mangroves, secondary forests, parks, and gardens. As they are arboreal (meaning they spend their time up in the trees), they are great climbers easily able to move through the trees. In order to get from one tree to another, they will flatten their body using their ribs, and then project themselves in the air from a high branch. Making undulating movements with their long slender body and keeping their head relatively stable, they are able to glide through the air, which can look like flying.

Their body colors include black, white, and yellow, and some individuals may have a red/orange pattern on the top of their bodies. They are mildly venomous and rear-fanged and are able to constrict their prey. Their main diet consists of various lizards and bats.

2. Mirkwood Forest Slug Snake

Scientific Name: Asthenodipsas lasgalenensis
Geographic Range: Malaysia
Conservation Status: Not Assessed

The Mirkwood forest slug snake is a truly unique snake found in Malaysia and was described recently in 2013. They are brown in color, with white “lips” and belly scales. Juveniles have dark bands going down their bodies that will fade as they age. Large round eyes stand out on these snakes and can vary in color from dark red to a reddy orange. They are mostly arboreal, often found at various heights throughout the plants and trees in their habitat.

The species name lasgalenensis is derived from the name Eryn Lasgalan, which means “wood of greenleaves” in the fictional language from Lord of the Rings. The name was used by wood elves for the Mirkwood Forest, which was chosen because the description of the forest in the book is similar to the cloudy upland forests where the Mirkwood forest slug snake is found in. This is also where the common name comes from.

3. Malayan Softshell Turtle 

Scientific Name: Dogania subplana
Geographic Range: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Malayan softshell turtles are strange-looking turtles that can often be found in clear running water, usually in rocky rivers that are at higher elevations. Their carapace (shell) length averages 35cm (13.7 inches) and is flat with straight sides, giving them a unique appearance. Colors of medium brown, light brown, and dark green-brown as well as various markings on the body help the turtle camouflage itself and hide from predators. Another unique aspect of their appearance is their long necks, large muscular heads, and their long tapered noses. They use their strong jaws to crack open the shells of the various snails and other mollusks that they eat.

4. Kuhl’s Flying Gecko

Scientific Name: Gekko kuhli
Geographic Range: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Kuhl’s flying gecko is also referred to as the gliding gecko or Kuhl’s parachute gecko. They got their specific name kuhli, as well as the Kuhl in their common name, in honor of German zoologist Heinrich Kuhl. Mainly, they can be found in lowland primary and secondary forests that are up to 800m in elevation. They are primarily nocturnal, however, they can still be spotted on tree trunks during the day. They are capable of making noises, like chirping at each other or making “warning calls” when in danger. While they may occasionally be kept as pets, they are considered a species for more advanced keepers.

These fascinating geckos are usually around 6 inches in length. The flaps on either side of their body, webbed feet, and flattened tail allow Kuhl’s flying gecko to glide from tree to tree with ease. While they may not be necessarily flying, it sure does look like they are as they glide through the air! Usually, their color and pattern depend on the habitat they live in, as it often matches the trees around them to help them seamlessly camouflage themselves and almost disappear. The best way to spot them is by looking for their eyes on the tree trunks!

5. Malaysia Bow-fingered Gecko

Scientific Name: Cyrtodactylus elok
Geographic Range: Malaysia
Conservation Status: Least Concern

The next reptile on our list is the unique Malaysia bow-fingered gecko. They are also commonly referred to by the common names white-eyed forest gecko or the beautiful bent-toed gecko. With a snout-to-vent length (this means not including their tail) of around 8cm (3 inches) and a weight of 6.6g, they are rather small geckos. However, the females of these geckos do tend to be larger than the males. Their main color is usually a dark brown, with various colors of brown, beige, tan, orange, yellow, and pink making up the patterns on their body. As is implied by one of their names (white-eyed forest gecko) they usually have striking light-colored eyes. Finally, one of the most unique things about them is their thin spikey tail, which is usually curled up behind them.

While it is rare, they are occasionally kept and sold as pets. It is important to be aware however that most Malaysia bow-fingered geckos for sale are wild-caught, which can come with problems like parasites.

6. Five-Lined Flying Dragon

Scientific Name: Draco quinquefasciatus
Geographic Range: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Five-lined flying dragons, or five-banded gliding lizards, are a species of lizards that belong to the agamid family. They can mainly be found inhabiting lowland primary rainforests that are often close to swamps or other bodies of water. They are diurnal lizards, meaning they are awake during the day and are often spotted clinging to large tree trunks as they spend most of their time in the trees. The main part of their diet is thought to be made up of ants and termites.

Considered a medium-sized lizard, the five-lined flying dragon is 27cm (10.6 inches) long. Their long slender body and limbs are green and brown mottled in color. Males’ throat flaps are yellow in color, while females’ have throat fans that are green with yellow spots. The broad flap of skin that is supported by the lizard’s ribs and extends out from the body is called a patagium, and in the five-lined flying dragon, it is orange and yellow with 5 thick black stripes and white spots. They are only 1 of 2 species of Draco where the female is more colorful than the males. By extending this flap of skin they are able to easily glide from tree to tree.

7. Spiny Terrapin

Scientific Name: Heosemys spinosa
Geographic Range: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
Conservation Status: Endangered

These turtles were also featured in our weird and unique turtle article if you want to see more interesting turtles!

Next on our list of reptiles in Malaysia is the amazing spiny turtle. The spiny turtle is a turtle that inhabits lowland and hill rainforests, usually in the vicinity of small streams and puddles. They mainly are forest floor dwellers and are well camouflaged against the leaf litter found on the ground. The majority of their diet is made up of fallen fruit and vegetation found in their habitat, however, they may eat animal matter if it is available to them. Two major threats contributing to their decreasing population are habitat loss and illegal collection for the pet trade.

One look at this turtle and the inspiration for their common name is pretty obvious. The shell of this turtle is covered in keeled, sharp, spiky points, that jut out around the whole shell. It is thought that they have these spikes to deter predators from trying to prey on them, as the sharp spikes would surely hurt. However, the sharp and spiky shell does get worn down with age, so larger, older, turtles tend to have smoother shells than the juveniles do, and end up with small serrations near the back of their shells.

8. Malayan Crested Lizard 

Scientific Name: Gonocephalus grandis
Geographic Range: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Another reptile on our list with multiple names, the Malayan crested lizard is also often referred to as the giant forest dragon or the great anglehead lizard. Often they can be found along forest streams in lowland and hill rainforests and freshwater swamp forests. They are arboreal lizards, with males being found around 15m (49 feet) above ground, while females and juveniles will stay closer to the ground. When frightened they will leap into the water and swim away, or sometimes they may submerge themselves under the water in order to hide. Their diets are made up of a variety of invertebrates, such as insects, insect grubs, and some spiders.

Malayan crested lizards are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females have main differences in their appearances. Males have well-developed head and body crests, are bright green in color with blue sides that have yellow spots on them, and are slightly larger than females, about 60 cm (23.6 inches) in total length. Females have smaller crests only on their backs, and are usually brown with brown markings, making them less brightly colored than the males. They are usually only around 52cm (20.4 inches) in total length.

9. Borneo Earless Monitor

Scientific Name: Lanthanotus borneensis
Geographic Range: Indonesia, Malaysia
Conservation Status: Endangered

The next reptile from Malaysia is the unique Borneo earless monitor. They are mainly found in rainforests near rocky streams. However, they have also been found in artificial environments near water, such as gardens and palm oil plantations. Not too much is known about their life in the wild, as they are not often actually spotted in the wild, and there are only around 100 specimens in museums around the world. They are nocturnal monitors that are thought to be carnivorous. When studied in captivity they appear to not move much and are rather sluggish in their actions. In order to move through dirt and water, they will move their body in a serpentine twisting motion, using their blunt heads to push aside the dirt. They seem to use their legs very little when doing this.

The total length of the Borneo earless monitor is around 40 – 50 cm (16 – 19 inches) with their tails being half of that length. A lack of an external ear opening is why they got their name. However, their ear structures are fully developed underneath their skin. As they spend a lot of time in the water, their eyes and nostrils are small. They also have short limbs that end in sharp claws, and a tail that is thought to be prehensile (able to grab onto things).

10. Cat Gecko

Scientific Name: Aeluroscalabotes felinus
Geographic Range: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Check out our article on cat gecko facts to learn even more about these unique geckos!

Last but not least on our list of Malaysian reptiles is the fascinating Malaysian cat gecko. These cool little lizards are arboreal, spending their time in the trees of cool, humid lowland and hill forests. They are insectivores and will hunt for a variety of small insects found throughout their range. Interestingly, they are considered very primitive geckos, as their physical structure is similar to fossilized geckos that have been discovered. While they are occasionally kept as pets, they are another species that is considered more advanced to keep.

Cat geckos average 18cm (7 inches) in length, with females usually slightly larger than males. Their bodies are brown with various orange and light and dark markings across their body. Their limbs are quite slender, and their prehensile tails help them hold on to branches and steady themselves.

There are a few different reasons that the Malaysian cat gecko could have been given their name. They wrap their tails around themselves to sleep, have vertical cat-like pupils, and retractable claws, as well as have a slow cat-like walk.

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