Lifestyle and Lifespan
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.
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.
To aid in camouflage, they exhibit an overall backdrop of brown with spots, speckles or swirls of varying color. A very spiky tail used to swipe at predators, paired with on open mouth hissing, are there first line of defense. As a result of high concentrations of salt bearing plants, this species has glands in its nostrils used for eliminating extra salt without eliminating water. Can you tell in the picture below which is the Common Chuckwalla and which is the Mali Spiny Lizard (hint: look at the tails)?
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.
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.
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 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.
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.'
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.