Sudan Plated Lizard

African Savanna


In the Zoo
1-2 feet
1-2 feet
1 pound
1 pound
7 years

Geographic Range

Savanna and steppe areas of eastern and southeastern Africa, from Ethiopia to South Africa and to Togo in the west

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Gerrhosaurus major

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
3-4 months
Lifespan in the Wild:
5-10 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
5-10 years




A large stout grayish-brown lizard with transverse bands of squarish, plate-like, keeled scales, that have yellow spots on them. The lower eyelid is covered with small scales and there are rough scales on the head. Scales on the back have pronounced keels and the soles of the feet are covered with slightly keeled scales. The animals are yellow-brown on the upper surface; each scale is often dark-centered, creating a speckled to striped effect. The chin and throat are usually yellow or cream, and the underside is grey to light brown. They have large eyes. The tail is often twice the length of the body. They resemble skinks. Head shields are fused into the skull.

Species Specifics

Sexual Dimorphism. Males are larger than females with bright-colored throats.

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.



Savanna and steppe areas; Lives in burrows; It may dig these itself or use old termite nests. Sometimes will share its home with a dwarf mongoose or a snake. They also live in cracks in small rocky mounds.


Savanna and steppe areas of eastern and southeastern Africa, from Ethiopia to South Africa and to Togo in the west.


Omnivore. Feeds on soft fruits and flowers, beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars and millipedes. Will eat smaller lizards as well.

Ecological Web

Plated lizards are an important link in the food chain. They are predators but in turn are preyed upon by many larger reptiles, carnivorous mammals and birds. Humans exploit these animals, hunting them for the pet trade, as they are difficult to breed in captivity and are often wild-caught. They have become a very popular pet.

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

Large groups of these lizards can often be seen haring a common area in the wild, however they are not a particularly social animal. Such groups are only the result of sharing a site which has good potential for breeding and feeding, and is close to water.

Reproductive Behavior

Female usually lays 2 large eggs in moist soil, but have been known to lay up to 4. The eggs hatch after 3-4 months.


The young are 10-15 cm. (3.9-5.5 inches) at hatching.



Not listed as endangered.


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

Introduced Non-Native, Domestic, and Invasive Species

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

Known as the African Plated Lizard (Grzimek), Sudanese Plated Lizard (Vivarium), or Rough-Scaled Plated Lizard (Branch's Field Guide). Since Sudan Lizard is the ISIS name of G. major that is being used in zoo records.

They often share their burrow or termite mound with other animals including some snakes.

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


Branch, Bill. 1988. Bill Branch's Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa, Ralph Curtis Pub, p. 151.

Grzimek, Bernhard. 1975. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Vol. 6. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co, New York City, NY, pp. 271-2.

Kirkpatrick, David. 1993. "Plated Lizards of the Genus Gerrhosaurus: An Alternative to Iguanas" originally in HerpTales, September, Internet.

Martin, Kristi. "Reptiles of Oakland Zoo" talk given January 23, 1999.