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Common name: Savannah Monitor

Scientific name: Varanus exanthematicus


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Sauria

Family: Varanidae

Genus: Varanus

Species: V. exanthematicus


The savannah monitor is also known as the Bosc's Monitor, named after Louis Bosc who discovered it in 1792.  The savannah monitor can be 1.5 meters (5 feet) long.  It is gray to brown in color. There are rows of circular, dark yellow spots across the animal's back. The tail has brown and yellowish rings. The belly and inside of the limbs is a yellowish color as well.  But much of its color can vary. The tongue is almost like a snake's and blue in color.  It has sharp teeth and even sharper claws.


The savannah monitor is normally found in the grassy plains (or savannah) of Africa south of the Sahara desert. It is primarily a ground-dwelling species that uses its powerful climbs to dig and shelter in burrows, although they are sometimes found in bushes or low trees.  It can climb trees and swim also.  It has adapted to live in rocky desert-like areas as well as open forests. They are not found in the rainforest or true arid deserts.


Savannah monitors are most active in the daytime.  They mostly use their tongue to sense the environment.  They will flick out their tongue 20-40 times per two minutes to sense their surroundings.  However, after attacking its prey it will raise the flicking to about 160 flicks per two minutes to help track an animal trying to escape.  Males are usually very territorial and will bite any animal coming into their "space".


The savannah monitor is not listed as a threatened or endangered species.  It is hunted mainly for its leather and the natives also use it as a food source. It is also an extremely common pet, and is found in pet stores all over the world due to its very tame nature and relatively small size (for a monitor).


As an adult, the savannah monitor eats other lizards, carrion, crocodile eggs, rodents, snakes, frogs, and toads.  It has also developed immunity to cobra venom and has been known to eat cobras from time to time.  When it is young it will eat insects and use its strong jaws and sharp knife-like teeth to crush snail shells.  The younger monitors can also eat poisonous millipedes without being harmed.


The savannah monitor's only known predator is man.  When cornered it will be very aggressive and bite and hiss.  However, if this doesn't work it has been known to play dead.


The savannah monitor is a very interesting lizard and probably the most interesting I've read about.  The thing I find the most interesting is their ability to eat cobra snakes.


Author:Jacob K.

Published: 03/2009



Briggs, Patrick Personal interview. Winter 2009.

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