Black Throated Monitor


ORDER: Squamata

FAMILY: Varanidae

GENUS: Varanus

SPECIES: albigularis

DESCRIPTION:
All monitors have long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs. The black-throated monitor has a bulbous, convex snout; a pink or bluish forked tongue, and mottled gray-brown scales with yellowish or white markings. This is the heaviest bodied lizard in Africa, and the largest of 4 subspecies of Varanus albigularis (white-throated monitor). Adult males can weigh as much as 60lbs. It is the second longest African lizard, reaching 7 ft. in length, with its tail and body being of equal size. Mature specimens more typically will measure 3-4 ft. The head and neck are the same length, and are distinct from each other.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Native to Tanzania. Terrestrial. This lizard lives in a variety of dry habitats, including steppes, prairies and savannahs, but is absent from desert interiors, rainforests and thick scrub forests.

DIET:
Carnivorous. Will eat anything they can catch. In captivity, they eat whole prey such as mice, rats, snakes, lizards, freshwater mollusks, small birds, large roaches, crustaceans, fish and eggs.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Hunting occurs over a large home range of around 2.3 square miles for females and 7 square miles for males (keeping to a much smaller part of their home range during the dry season-when food and thus energy is in shorter supply). Mating and egg incubation occurs during the drier months with hatching coinciding with the onset of the rainy season. During breeding (Aug-Sept), females will climb into a tree and wait for a male to arrive. Once a male has found her, they will stay together for 2-3 days after which she will lay 1-2 sets of eggs in burrows. Sexual maturity is reached at 3-5 years. Life span is about 15 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Although primarily terrestrial, white-throated monitors will climb trees to hunt for prey, to reproduce, and to avoid predators. If confronted on the ground by a predator, such as a honey badger, it will puff up its throat and body by drawing air into the lungs and into an expanding cavity in the throat area, lash out with its tail, and bite violently.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
Also known as the Cape Monitor. Family (Varanus) consists of 31 species and 58 subspecies; this includes the largest lizards now in existence, the Komodo Dragon, which can reach 10 feet in length, and the smallest is the eight inch short-tailed monitor of Australia.

OUR ANIMALS:
The black-throated monitor can be found in the African Savanna.

STATUS IN WILD:
Varanids are especially vulnerable because of their requirements for large areas of suitable habitat. This trait, coupled with the use of their skins for the leather trade and local peoples hunting them for meat has led to the CITES classification of all monitors as threatened. These monitors are often killed out of fear by native peoples, and also parts are used in traditional medicine. This animal has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Alberts, Allison. "Lessons from the Wild", The Vivarium. Vol.5, Issue 5, pp 26-28.
  2. "Black Throated Monitor". Twycross Zoo. Retreived July 25, 2013
  3. Fountain, Henry. "Turbocharged Lizards". New York Times. June 8, 1999.
  4. Grzimek, Bernhard, ed. 1984. Grizmek
  5. Visser, Gerard. "Monitors and the Rotterdam Zoo", The Vivarium, pp.19-22.