Savannah Monitor

Savannah Monitors have been gaining popularity in the pet trade over the past few years. Unfortunately, they are extremely hard to keep and even harder to breed. Many pet savs are still wild caught and imported to the US. And many of them do not live very long.
Irwin - Our first savannah monitor at the rescue, Irwin was actually found at a livestock auction. He came to us with absolutely no history or even an age. He was still small and young and has grown up quickly. He has been to a few events but as he gets bigger, he prefers to stay home more often.
Lizzie - This poor girl came to us as a surrender in poor condition. She has extreme MBD bone deformities, was overweight, and had a large open wound under her leg probably from sitting on wet or dirty substrate. She was also fed an entirely meat-based diet. We're still working on convincing her that insects are just as yummy as meat.
Common Name: Savannah Monitor
Scientific Name: Varanus exanthematicus
Type: Varanid 
Diet: Insectivore
Average Life Span: 8-10 years
Size: Up to 3 feet in length
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
Current Population Trend: Unknown

About the Savannah Monitor

The savannah monitor is a medium-sized species of monitor lizard native to Africa. The species is known as Bosc's monitor in Europe, since French scientist Louis Bosc first described the species. Savannah monitors are stoutly built, with relatively short limbs and toes, and skulls and dentition adapted to feed on hard-shelled prey. They are robust creatures, with powerful limbs for digging, powerful jaws and blunt, peglike teeth. Maximum size is rarely more than 3 feet. Their diet is much more restricted than that of other African monitor lizards, consisting mainly of snails, millipedes, orthopterans, beetles, and other invertebrates.

Captivity Issues

The savannah monitor lizard is a very popular pet. Every year more than 30,000 enter the pet trade. Nobody has ever figured out how to keep them well enough to breed them consistently, and the lizards live comparatively short lives in captivity. Savannah monitor lizards are very tough animals that often withstand years of abuse.


Despite what you will read on the internet, no successful husbandry methods have ever been demonstrated for savannah monitors. There are monitor lizards that reproduce very well in captivity, and successful husbandry methods have been demonstrated for those species, but the savannah monitor is not one of them. The animal does very poorly in captivity, and the majority of owners do not have their animals after one year. Most savannah monitors that survive their first year become morbidly obese and virtually all are dead within five years. None seem to survive for ten. Female savannah monitors probably die even earlier than males in captivity, and almost never produce eggs. At best, females cycle a few times and then stop and either die or never cycle again. Captive bred savannah monitors are extremely rare, and second generation offspring almost unheard of. All the savannah monitors in the trade are sourced from the wild, either by catching gravid females, digging up eggs or catching the baby lizards shortly after they have emerged from their nests.


Habitat

Its range extends throughout sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to Sudan and south almost to the Congo River and Rift Valley, where they are replaced by V. albigularis. V. exanthematicus is primarily a ground-dwelling species that shelters in burrows, although it is sometimes found in bushes or low trees. In the coastal plain of Ghana, V. exanthematicus juveniles are often associated with the burrows of the giant cricket Brachytrupes.


Threats

The species is hunted for its leather and meat and for the international pet trade. The trade in wild collected savannah monitors is not of a global conservation concern due to the vast range of the species, in addition to the collection for the pet trade often occurring over a relatively small area. An average of 30,574 live specimens were imported into the US each year between 2000 and 2009. During the same period, 1,037 skins, shoes, and products of the species were imported into the US. Trade in live animals comes mainly from Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Substantial undeclared trade in the species occurs from Sudan, Nigeria, and elsewhere.


Source: savmon.org and wikipedia