Huge Monitor Lizard Scaring Tourists In Their Tent

Apr 14 2015

Following watching this clip don’t be surprised if a monitor lizard stumbles into your tent or bungalow… Steven Oosthuizen, wilderness trails ranger (Olifants Trail) explains to us, “There are monitor lizards that are born and bred in rest camps making them very habituated to human contact. Thus in the Kruger National Park camps it is very 'normal' to see them wondering around.”

TB: Where are people most likely to spot a monitor lizard?
SO: This specific monitor is a rock monitor or white throated monitor lizard, varanus albigularis. They are the second largest monitor in Africa and the heaviest. They are mostly terrestrial but are just as comfortable climbing trees (arboreal). Often young monitors will stay up in trees and semi-hibernate away from predators. They are also excellent swimmers and venture into pools of water for food, however this makes them susceptible prey to crocodiles.

TB: What would your advice be to someone confronted by a monitor lizard? Are they dangerous?
SO: Monitor lizards can give a nasty bite and a tail whip from them can split human skin. However they will not easily attack unless provoked or cornered.
In the case of a monitor entering a tent, it is probably because he is looking for food and if cornered the best is to stand still. Allow him to move around and then exit the tent when you have space to move, and open the tent door all the way to give him an exit. If you are brave enough you could open the tent door and with a broom very calmly nudge him towards the door. But if he shows aggression and refuses to move then leave the tent and ask for assistant from reception and generally they will contact one of the guides on duty or a ranger available.

TB: What is predominantly a monitor lizards diet? And they seem quite sluggish, are they aggressive when capturing their prey?
SO: Rock monitor lizards are mostly predators and often scavengers. They will feed voraciously during the wet season travelling long distances in search of prey. In the dry season they generally conserve their energy and adopt a sit and wait strategy thereby also losing approximately 4% of their body weight.
In the wet season they prey on a large variety of small mammals and lizards and in some regions giant land snails become a favorite food source. They have even been documented digging up crocodile nests and feeding on the eggs or young crocodile hatchlings.
They can move very fast when needed but when moving around they seem to move very slowly. This is to conserve energy and when needed they can accelerate very quickly to catch their prey. This also adds to their technique as an animal could mistake them for being too slow to catch them and relaxing enough for the monitor to strike when the prey is at its closest. This is actually observed in many reptiles and snakes.

TB: How big do they commonly get?
SO: As mentioned rock monitors are the second longest and the heaviest of the African species.
Males can weigh up to 8kg and females 6,5kg while their lengths vary from 1,2 meters to 1,5 meters body and tail. Captive monitors tend to become obese and weigh up to 20kg.

An interesting creature and like the bushbuck in letaba camp or the African wildcat in satara camp, monitor lizards will never become as tame as a domesticated animals and people must realize this and still give them there space and not feed them.

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