Saturday, November 10, 2012

Savannah Monitor

Varanus exanthematicus
Savannah Monitors are one of the more popular Monitor Lizard species to be kept in captivity. This is due to their small(er) size, docile attitude, and general toleration of handling. (Disclaimer: Don't just go out and buy a 4ft long lizard! Please do your homework, and buy from a responsible source!)

Anyway, in the wild Savannah Monitors can be found in the warm climates of Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the Savannah name, there is a misconception that they are a desert dwelling species, but obviously this is not the case. They are found in grassland regions and are a primarily ground-dwelling species.

Savannah Monitors have two main activities in life-- eating and basking in the sun. They feed on invertebrates, rodents, and smaller reptiles. They themselves are prey for birds, larger reptiles, and humans (who hunt them for skins and meat). The Lizards have pretty decent camouflage, so their main defensive strategy is to stay undetected. But if threatened, they have a strong bite and a powerful lashing tail in their arsenal.

The species is listed as being of Least Concern, but they face many human-related threats. It is estimated that  around 100,000 are exported every single year, either for the pet trade or for leather. For now, studies show that that number may be sustainable, though in some localized areas the population is on a decline.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Sub-Saharan Africa
Size : Length up to 4.5ft (1.4m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Squamata
Family : Varanidae -- Genus : Varanus -- Species : V. exanthematicus

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