Species group: Monitor Lizards
Other common names: Bosc Monitor; Cape Monitor
Scientific name: Varanus exanthematicus
The Savannah Monitor is one of the most inexpensive and widely-kept large lizards, with hatchlings often being purchased on impulse by inexperienced hobbyists. Sadly, many of these youngsters are wild-caught, and a poor understanding of their unique husbandry needs condemns most to an early demise. While the Savannah Monitor can make a most interesting, responsive pet, adults can inflict serious injuries, and require much more space than the average owner can provide. It is a species best left to serious, experienced, adult keepers.
The Savannah Monitor is native to Sub-Saharan central Africa, where it ranges from Mauritania and Guinea east to Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya. An isolated population lives in Zimbabwe, and feral Savannah Monitors are established in Florida, USA. Collection for the leather, food and pet trades threatens this species in some regions.
Brushy savannas form the primary habitat, but rocky thorn scrub, open woodlands and farm edges are also utilized. Youngsters spend time in trees and bushes, while adults are terrestrial and shelter in deep self-dug burrows.
Appearance / health:
This thick-set lizard averages 3 to 4 feet in length, with occasional individuals exceeding 5 feet and perhaps approaching 6 feet. The gray, tan or brown body is marked with dark-edged yellow spots, and rings of yellow and brown encircle the tail. The underside is colored various shades of light yellow.
Savannah Monitors appear less-hardy than related species, with their maximum longevity averaging only 8-10 years, but occasionally approaching 20. This may be due to the huge numbers of wild-caught hatchlings that enter the trade annually. Respiratory ailments and a gout-like disease can take hold if your pet is kept at sub-optimal temperatures. Metabolic bone disease is common in animals that are not provided with ample calcium and/or UVB exposure. Females without access to a suitable nesting site may retain their eggs. Animals suspected of being wild-caught should be examined by a reptile-experienced veterinarian.
Behavior / temperament:
Hatchlings can be skittish, and adults vary greatly in personality. Many pets become quite responsive, learning to predict feeding times and seeming to distinguish between owners and strangers. However, they can inflict severe injuries, requiring stitches or other medical attention, with their teeth, tails, and nails. Savannah Monitors are not suitable pets for children.
Hatchlings may be started in a 55 gallon aquarium, but will need a homemade or commercial cage in time. An enclosure measuring at least 8 x 6 x 6 feet is essential for the proper housing of an adult. Outdoor cages or dedicated indoor rooms can be excellent options.
Youngsters are somewhat arboreal and may be stressed if kept in enclosures that do not allow climbing opportunities. Stout branches and wooden shelves, and a variety of shelters, should be included in the terrarium. Adults fare best when provided with 2-3 feet of a sand/soil substrate in which to burrow; hollow logs should also be in place as hiding spots. A water bowl large enough for bathing must always be available.
While Savannah Monitors have been kept successfully without UVB exposure, providing such is preferable. Mercury vapor bulbs broadcast UVB over greater distances than do florescent models, and also provide beneficial UVA. They require a temperature gradient of 78-88 F, with a dip to 72-76 F at night if possible, and a basking temperature of 100 -110 F. Slate or a flat rock (not a commercial “hot rock”) should be placed under the basking lamp to provide an extra-warm (to 130 F) area. Large enclosures will allow your pet to thermo-regulate by moving from hot to cooler areas. This behavior is important to long-term health, and is usually not possible in small cages. Humidity should be kept at 40-60 %.
Monitors are active, intelligent reptiles, and should be provided opportunities to search through decaying logs, soil, and leaf piles for live invertebrates.
The natural diet is made up primarily of invertebrates such as snails, locusts, scorpions, millipedes, spiders, beetles and large termites. Lizards, snakes, birds and their eggs, rodents and toads are taken when available.
Young Savannah Monitors should be fed near-daily meals of roaches, crickets, butterworms, locusts, silk worms, hornworms, calci-worms, earthworms and other commercially-available species and, as they gain size, small mice. Crickets and mealworms alone, even if supplemented, are not an adequate diet. The adult diet should revolve primarily around large invertebrates such as large roach species, locusts, European (“edible”) snails, night crawlers, crayfish and (if collected from pesticide-free areas), grasshoppers, cicadas and field crickets, along with mice, small rats and chicks. Commercial monitor diets, while not suitable as a base diet, can be offered on occasion.
Most meals provided to growing animals should be powdered with a Calcium source. Vitamin/mineral supplements should be used 2-3 times each week. Both can be reduced to once weekly for well-nourished adults.
Breeding behavior may occur seasonally or year-round, depending on the animal’s origin within the range. Pairs must be watched closely, and separated each evening, as copulation is accompanied by a good deal of biting. Males exhibit wide heads, somewhat bulbous snouts, 2 bulges (the hemipenes) along the cloaca and may be somewhat brighter in coloration. Although sexual maturity occurs earlier, animals selected for breeding should be at least 3-4 years of age.
A simple 10-15 F degree drop in temperature for 2-4 weeks may stimulate breeding behavior. Females should be provided with at least 3 feet of a sand/soil mix in which to nest. Clutches may contain 6-40+ eggs. The eggs should be incubated in a mix of 1 part vermiculite to 1 part water (by weight) at 85-86 F for 4-5 months.
Written by Frank Indiviglio
best monitor, fantastic eater, favorite monitor lizard, experienced hobbyists, great personalities
food monthly costs, painful bite, escape artist, large enclosure, bone-crushing jaws, foot 25lb lizard
big poops, High basking temps, smart species, appropriate basking temperature
I always wanted a monitor
Monitors are my favourite lizards, but they're big and notoriously bad tempered. I figured I would start off with what everyone told me was the 'puppy dog' of monitors - a Savannah Monitor.
It took a while to get him to the point that he would tolerate handling, I don't think he ever really enjoyed it. He did love getting to wander around the house or better yet the yard (on a harness).
Feeding is probably the easiest thing with savannah's, they will eat pretty much anything as long as it's meat. Better if it's stinky. Incests are fine when they're small, moving up to actual meat as they get older. Noodle would eat anything I put in front of him, chicken, mice, fish, eggs...The list goes on. His favourite were eggs. I would soft boil them to cut down on the mess. It would sometimes take him a bit to break into the egg, until he figured out he could tear it apart with his claws. Then he would dive in head first, literally. It was always funny to watch a lizard try to lick egg yolk off his head.
They are fairly easy to house, you just need to make sure you have enough room! These guys get fairly large, so they need a large space.
Be careful, they move a lot faster than you would think. So if you let them out, be prepared to chase after it. Always make sure that other pets are not in the same area as a savannah monitor on the loose.
Overall, not a beginner's pet, but if you love monitors, they are a great choice..
From NomadMorgan Jul 2 2015 11:37AM
Not such a great experience with mine!
I have owned and still own some interesting reptiles and have been successful at raising all of the since they were babies except the savannah monitor that I had. I have always been able to tame my other reptiles and this one I just could not tame.
I have always had a love for savannah monitors and thought they were beautiful lizards. I ended up finally buying one from the pet store, maybe that was my mistake, who knows. I tried training him for about 3 months but I just could get no where with him. Daily handling, everything.
I ended up deciding after a lot of contemplating to find him a shelter that had great reviews and was dedicated to taking care of reptiles. The end point for me when I realized he was not taking to me and I could not train him was when he bit my husband's finger and would not let go for anything. He did have powerful jaws even as a baby!
I was pregnant at the time and did not want to have a possibly mean lizard in the home with a baby.
These lizards are beautiful lizards and I have seen very docile ones around. I just got the fluke one I guess hehe.
I would not recommed these lizards for kids though because once again these are carnivorous lizards..
From amyaimprincess Jan 28 2013 12:56AM