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Black Rough Neck Monitor Lizard

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Species group:

Other common names: Rough-Necked Monitor

Scientific name: Varanus rudicollis

The basics:
The Black Rough Neck Monitor hails from a remote habitat and is rarely-seen in the wild, yet captive-bred individuals are easy to find. A unique lifestyle (please see below) and hardiness in captivity makes it a wonderful choice for experienced lizard enthusiasts. The Black Rough Neck Monitor is found from southern Myanmar through Thailand and western Malaysia to Sumatra and Borneo, and on nearby offshore islands. It seems restricted to rainforests along rivers and mangrove swamps, but we know little of its natural history. They are generally at home in trees, high above the ground, but also spend time foraging in nearby waterways.

Appearance / health:
The Black Rough Neck Monitor is stout in build and averages 3-4 feet in length, with some individuals reaching 5 feet. The body is (as you might guess!) dark gray to nearly black in color and (again a safe guess), thick, pointed scales encircle the neck. Extremely sharp claws (even by monitor standards) assist it in climbing.

Behavior / temperament:
Although this is not a species for beginners or those with limited space, Black Rough Neck Monitors adjust well to captivity when given proper care and make fine pets. Initially shy, they soon learn to trust gentle caretakers. However, they must be handled with care; in common with all large lizards, they are capable of inflicting serious injuries with their powerful jaws, long tails, and sharp teeth and claws. Thick leather gloves should be worn when handling Black Rough Neck Monitors, as even tame individuals will inflict deep scratches with their claws in the course of their normal movements.

Housing:
Black Rough Neck Monitors are active and will not thrive in close quarters. Adults require custom-built cages measuring at least 6 x 4 x 6 feet (L x W x H); greater height is preferable. Cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark, or a sand/peat moss mix may be used as substrates. Shy by nature, they are best provided with numerous caves, cork bark rolls and hollow logs in which to shelter. Stout climbing branches should be provided. The cage should be located in a quiet, undisturbed area of the home, as Black Rough Neck Monitors are very aware of their surroundings and easily stressed by unexpected noises and movements. Black Rough Neck Monitors fare best when afforded a wide temperature gradient, such as 75-95 F; a dip to 70-75 F at night may be beneficial; Basking temperature: 120-150 F. UVB exposure is essential. Humidity should average near 85%, but dry areas must be available. A commercial reptile mister will be helpful if your home is especially dry. A water area large enough for soaking must be available.

The water bowl or pool should be cleaned daily, as it is often used for defecation. The enclosure should be misted as needed (please see above) and thoroughly cleaned each 1-2 weeks. Humidity and temperature levels must be monitored carefully.

Diet:
The few available studies indicate that wild Black Rough Neck Monitors feed primarily upon large insects, frogs, crabs, and snails. Rodents, bats, birds and their eggs, and fish are also taken, but to a lesser degree. Youngsters do best on a highly-varied diet comprised mainly of invertebrates such as roaches, super mealworms, snails, hornworms, earthworms, and crickets; hard-boiled eggs, fish, pinkies and small mice can make up the balance of the diet. All meals offered to growing monitors should be powdered with calcium, and a high-quality reptile vitamin/mineral supplement should be used 3x weekly. Rodents and fish can comprise 50-60% of the adult diet, with large insects, hard-boiled eggs, and snails making up the balance. Calcium and vitamin mineral supplements should be used 1-2x weekly. Large food items should be avoided; even where adult monitors are concerned, mice are preferable to small rats.

Breeding:
A single male can be housed with 1 or 2 females, but they must be watched carefully. The nesting area should be enclosed (i.e. a large tub or plastic storage container within a wooden box equipped with a single entrance hole) and stocked with 2-3 feet of a slightly moist mix of sand and top soil or peat moss. Egg deposition generally occurs within 35-50 days of mating, but captive conditions can greatly affect the gestation period. Clutches contain 4-15 eggs, which may be incubated in moist vermiculite at 86-90 F for 180-200 days. Hatchlings measure 8-11 inches in length.

Written by Frank Indiviglio