African Savannah Monitor

Scientific Name Varanus exanthematicus albigularis

Native To Western and central Africa

Habitat Savannas and arid regions

Diet Carnivore: arthropods, ground dwelling birds, small mammals, reptiles, eggs and carrion (the decaying flesh of dead animals)

Size and Age Average length of 76-107 cm (2.5-3.5 ft), maximum length of 155 cm (5 ft); lifespan up to 13 years (in captivity)

Natural History

Savannah monitors are thick, stocky lizards with wide heads, short necks and tails. They are rather territorial, and encounters between two males are followed by threats made to each other in a bid to intimidate the other. Sometimes they get into duels and start wrestling, during which their bodies become intertwined and their bites can cause severe damage to each other. Their feeding style is based on a feast or fast system. The wet season brings an abundance of food, and savannah monitors take full advantage. During the dry season they survive off the fat reserves accumulated during the wet season.

Conservation Status

There is insufficient data to accurately gauge the conservation status of this animal.

Interesting Facts

  • Savannah monitors have evolved the ability to eat poisonous millipedes; they rub their chin against the millipede, causing it to excrete its poison—making it safe to eat.
  • Savannah monitors sometimes claim abandoned burrows originally dug by mammals. They also live in hollowed-out trees and occasionally in termite mounds.
  • Females typically lay 10-50 eggs, which hatch in 5-6 months.