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What Is a Savannah Monitor Lizard?

H. Lo
H. Lo

A savannah monitor lizard is a reptile naturally found in the savannah grasslands of Africa. This scaly animal is gray to brown in coloring, with brown and yellow rings on its tail, and a blue tongue that is snake-like. In addition, the savannah monitor lizard has a double-toothed crest, front legs with sharp claws, and a tapered tail. Also, it is able to turn its head in every direction. An adult savannah monitor lizard weighs approximately 11 to 13 pounds (about 5 to 6 kilograms), and it is approximately between 3 and 5 feet (about 1 to 1.5 meters) in length.

There are a few differences between the male and female savannah monitor lizard. In general, the male monitor is slightly larger in size than the female monitor. Also, the male monitor exhibits a shorter tail while the female monitor usually has a heavier body. As a territorial creature, the male monitor will hiss, as well as thrash its tail, before it strikes at another male. Overall, the monitor will avoid interacting with humans if possible and might even pretend to be dead in the presence of a human being, in an attempt to evade capture.


The female monitor will lay her eggs, between 20 and 50 at a time, in a hole or termite mound. These eggs hatch in the months of March and April, and the hatchlings measure approximately 4.72 inches (120 millimeters) in length and weigh 0.02 pounds (about 0.01 kilograms). Even though they are so small, the hatchlings will experience rapid growth during their first months of life. To avoid predators after hatching, a young monitor will remain in burrows or trees. In contrast, an adult monitor will usually reside on the ground.

Like snakes, the savannah monitor lizard can eat prey that is bigger in size than itself. For an adult, food consists of an array of animals including birds, carrion and small mammals, as well as snails and snakes. A young monitor will eat insects. The monitor’s active and dormant periods affect its intake of food, as the animal is active in daylight when it is warm, and dormant when the weather is cool, or if there is a drought. During the wet season, the monitor will eat as much as it can because there is plenty of food, and during the dry season, the monitor will survive off its fat reserves because it is dormant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Savannah Monitor Lizard?

The Savannah Monitor, or Varanus exanthematicus, is a medium-sized species of lizard native to the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. These reptiles are known for their robust build, powerful limbs, and stout tails. They can grow up to 2.5 to 3 feet in length and are often a popular choice among exotic pet enthusiasts due to their relatively docile nature when compared to other monitor species.

What does the Savannah Monitor eat?

Savannah Monitors are carnivorous, primarily feeding on insects like beetles and grasshoppers in the wild. They also consume small mammals, birds, eggs, and other reptiles. In captivity, their diet should be varied and can include mice, crickets, and specially formulated reptile food to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients for a healthy life.

How do you care for a Savannah Monitor in captivity?

Caring for a Savannah Monitor requires a large and secure enclosure to accommodate their size and activity level. The habitat should have a temperature gradient with a basking spot of around 100°F and a cooler area in the 80s°F. Humidity levels should be maintained between 40-60%. A diet of appropriately sized prey, regular exercise, and routine veterinary checkups are essential for their well-being.

How long do Savannah Monitors live?

In captivity, with proper care, Savannah Monitors can live for 10 to 15 years. Their lifespan in the wild is less documented but is likely shorter due to predation, disease, and environmental challenges. Consistent and high-quality care is crucial in extending the life expectancy of these reptiles when kept as pets.

Are Savannah Monitors dangerous?

Savannah Monitors are generally not considered dangerous to humans, especially when they are captive-bred and properly socialized from a young age. However, they possess strong jaws and sharp claws, which can inflict injury if they feel threatened. It's important for handlers to respect their space and learn to read their behavior to avoid stress-induced aggression.

What is the conservation status of the Savannah Monitor?

The Savannah Monitor is currently listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), indicating that it is not at immediate risk of population decline. However, habitat destruction and the international pet trade can pose threats to their populations, making conservation efforts important for their long-term survival.

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