Black Throated Monitor

African Savanna


In the Zoo
3-6 feet
3-6 feet
50 pounds
50 pounds
3-5 years
3-5 years

Geographic Range

Tanzania; southeastern Africa south of the Sahara Desert in Tanzania

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Varanus albigularis ionidesi

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
365 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
10-12 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
10-12 years


Habitat Loss


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 60 lbs. 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.*Sexual Dimorphism. Males will grow slightly bigger than females.

Species Specifics

The Black Throated Monitor is a member of the Varanidae Family of monitor lizards. There is some confusion about the actual taxonomic classification of this species due to recent changes and inconsistent use of common names. For a time it was believed that the Black Throated Monitor was considered a subspecies of the White Throated Monitor. Now, the Black Throated Monitor, as well as the White Throated Monitor are considered variants of the Cape or Rock Monitor, Varanus albigularis.

Physical Characteristics

Able to eat mushrooms containing poisonous compounds which are not safe for humans or other animals, perhaps acting as a defense against predation.



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.


Habitats: Found mostly in the Eastern United States, Box Turtles occur as far north as Michigan and Maine, South to Florida, and as far West as Texas and Kansas. Found rarely above 1,000 feet in elevation, preferring low land habitats where water collects. Commonly associated with deciduous forests having high leaf litter and moisture these turtles are often located near rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and other bodies of fresh water, however, they are not good swimmers.


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.

Ecological Web

Secondary consumer.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Like most reptiles, activity is temperature dependent, preferring conditions that are moist, humid, and warm. Ideal temperature is 80-95°F and they are more active during rainy periods and immediately after it has rained. During drought, turtles may spend time in burrows and in excessive heat turtles will seek out shallow pools of water to soak in. In fall months turtles are observed basking in the sunlight for energy. In Northern climates turtles will enter hibernation in late October. In places like Florida, turtles are active year around.


The gecko will lick its eye to clean it from dust and other particles.

Social Behavior

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.)

Reproductive Behavior

Mating and egg incubation during the drier months with hatching coinciding with the onset of the rainy season. During breeding (August-September), 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.


In the wild, up to 37 eggs can be found in a clutch. Deposition sites may vary considerably. Some females seem to prefer digging their nests into almost the cement-hard bottoms of ant or termite mounds. In order to retain the humidity that is so necessary for their existence, the termites rebuild their mounds around the eggs, thus protecting the monitor eggs encased within. (In other cases, the eggs are buried in moisture-retaining damp earth.)When subjected the the variations of natural incubation the eggs can take up to a year to hatch!



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.


Due to a widespread, consistent and persistent decline of the species, the ICUN considers the Box Turtle to be a Vulnerable Species. The decline is associated with anthropogenic causes, or manmade causes centering on urbanization. Agricultural use of pesticides within a shared water shed has negatively impacted young turtle survivability due to malformed eggs. Introduction of synanthopic predator species, (species who live near and benefit mutually from human settlement and urban habitats) such as ravens, coyotes and raccoons, are increasing in numbers as humans continue to urbanize.

Current Threats

Habitat Loss

Our Role

No items found.

How You Can Help

Please be aware of the pets you choose to buy. Never get a pet that has been taken from the wild and never return a pet to the wild. Be aware of pesticide applications so as to not poison native animals that benefit your ecosystem. Finally, be conscious of your trash and waste so as to not attract unwanted animals such as ravens.

Fascinating Facts

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

The subspecific name ionidesi is in honor of Constantine John Philip Ionides (1901-1968), called the 'Snake Man of British East Africa.'

Of all the Gerrhosaururidae lizards (Plated lizards) they are the most armored.


Alberts, Allison. "Lessons from the Wild", The Vivarium. Vol. 5, Issue 5, pp 26-28.

"Black Throated Monitor." Twycross Zoo. Retrieved July 25, 2013.

Fountain, Henry. "Turbocharged Lizards." New York Times. June 8, 1999.

Grzimek, Bernhard, ed. 1984. Grizmek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 6.

Visser, Gerard. "Monitors and the Rotterdam Zoo", The Vivarium, pp. 19-22.