Savannah Monitor Lizard

(Varanus exanthematicus)

Common Name: Savannah Monitor Lizard

Scientific Name: Varanus exanthematicus

Reptiles Alive Name: Hannah Savannah

Hisssstory: Came to RA as an adorable baby who was rescued and rehabilitated by a veterinary technician. The kind rescuer transferred a very nervous Hannah to Reptiles Alive where she has grown and become more and more brave by the day.

RA Diet: Crickets, roaches, worms, thawed frozen small mice, and fish pieces.

Natural Diet: Carnivorous. Savannah monitor lizards have been recorded feeding on various insects, small mammals, poisonous millipedes, snails, scorpions, small reptiles, and amphibians. They also have been known to feed off of the leftovers from other animals like lions.

Range: Throughout sub-Saharan Africa

Habitat: Their name gives away their main ecosystem: the savannah. They have also adapted to live in open forests and dry, rocky desert-like areas. They prefer arid regions with a variety of rock, sandy soil, grass, scrub bush, and small trees.

Size: Up to 6.5 feet long and up to 150 pounds – but usually much smaller, around 3-4 feet long.

Lifespan: Average of 13 years in captivity. Unknown in the wild.

Reproduction: The breeding season is the same as the feasting season: the wet season. When the males finds their chosen mate, he will follow her around relentlessly, occasionally biting her on the neck and scratching her neck and legs with his claws. Hardly as nice as chocolate and flowers! The female will dig a nest and lay between 20 to 50 eggs. The female remains close to guard her nest from predators.

Conservation: The Savannah monitor lizard is not listed as threatened or endangered, however it is facing great population loss from poaching. The species is hunted for its leather and meat and for the international pet trade. The United States is the number one importer of the species intended for the pet trade. Unfortunately, Savannah monitor lizards are one of the most common dumped/unwanted lizard pets according to animal rescue centers. Before getting any pet, always research extensively where the individual animal came from, how long it will live, how big it will get, and how to care for the animal! Their lives depend on it.

Cool Facts: Savannah monitor lizards have evolved a method to eat very poisonous millipedes. The lizard has been known to rub its chin over the millipede for up to 15 minutes after catching it. It is thought this behavior is to cause the millipede to excrete and then to rub off some of the foul tasting poison.

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