Scientific Name: Varanus exanthematicus
Size: Up to 3 feet in length
IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern
Current Population Trend: Unknown
About the Savannah Monitor
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.
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.
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