Filed under: Monitors, Reptiles | Tags: bosc's monitor, lizard, monitor, savannah monitor, varanus
The Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus) gets its Latin name from the large, flat oval scales on the back of the neck which could be said to erupt, and its common name from the impression that it lives on the African savannah in the wild. The term savannah monitor is also used in reference to several other species of savannah-dwelling monitors. In the U.K. the species is often known as “Bosc’s Monitor Lizard.” It is a robust creature, with powerful limbs for digging, powerful jaws and blunt, peglike teeth. Maximum size is rarely more than 100cm. Its diet is much more restricted than that of other African monitor lizards, consisting mainly of snails, milipedes, orthopterans, beetles and other invertebrates. The only vertebrates regularly consumed are amphibians.
Its range extends from Senegal as far as Eritrea and northern Zaire. Varanus exanthematicus is primarily a ground dwelling species that shelters in burrows, although they are sometimes found in bushes or low trees. In the coastal plain of Ghana juvenile Varanus exanthematicus are often associated with the burrows of the giant cricket Brachytrupes.
This species is readily available in the pet trade. Juvenile animals are collected from several countries in West Africa (mainly Ghana, Togo, Benin and Nigeria) and exported worldwide. Animals sold as captive bred, captive farmed or ranched are the offspring of gravid females collected during the breeding season whose eggs are incubated by exporters. Adult specimens frequently become unwanted pets and are reported as being the most common monitor lizards by animal rescue agencies. However the vast majority die within a year of capture and captive breeding is very rare. The skins of the species are important in the international leather trade and originate mainly from Chad, Mali and Sudan.
Bosc’s Monitor is often confused with the Whitethroat Monitor (Varanus albigularis) which can grow to lengths of 5-6 feet. While similar in overall appearance, this species possesses significant morphological and ecological differences and is recognized as a very distinct species.
The salivary glands of many, if not all, species of monitor lizards produce venom in very low concentrations with vestigal function (Fry et al., 2006). The effect of these proteins on humans is negligible and the animals are not considered venomous. Complications arising from lizard bites are almost aways the result of infections.