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Savannah Monitor - Varanus exanthematicus

Savannah Monitor - Varanus exanthematicus
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Savannah monitors are larger pet lizards that are known to be some of the more docile lizards of the monitor group. They arenít really active lizards but usually tolerate handling quite well.

Bosc's or Savannah Monitor lizards are a stoutly built species with relatively short limbs and toes, and a skull and dentition adapted to feed on hard shelled prey. Maximum size is rarely more than 1m (3 feet) in length, females are considerably smaller. The pattern and coloration of the skin vary according to the local habitat substrate. The body scales are large, usually less than 100 scales around midbody, a partly laterally compressed tail with a double dorsal ridge and a nostril situation equidistant from the eye and the tip of the snout.

Native to Africa, savannah monitors need a dry, hot environment for them to thrive in. They spend most of their time in the wild basking in the sun and eating a variety of small prey food such as rodents, smaller lizards, and insects. They are carnivores and prone to obesity, therefore it is vital to monitor the weight of your savannah monitor to prevent excess weight gain. Feeding juveniles a few times a week is fine but adult savannahs may only need to eat once a week.

Savannah monitors will grow to be about 3 to 4 feet long. Regular handling will make them more tame but like all monitors, if they are not a captive bred baby or are not handled often savannah monitors can become aggressive.


Savannahs are strong, large, escape artists. A large, secure enclosure is necessary to house any savannah monitor. A full grown savannah needs a minimum of an 8 feet by 4 feet enclosure, or twice the length of the monitor. A juvenile (young) savannah will be alright in a 55 gallon aquarium for short period of time but since they grow quickly most owners have their adult set-up ready when they bring home a baby.

The height of the enclosure should prevent them from escaping and allow a branch or other decoration in the cage in the off chance that they want to climb on something. Monitors can be destructive so other than some rocks and hides decorations aren't necessary. A large water dish that will allow the entire monitor to submerge himself should be in the cage as well. A large cat litter box is a popular alternative to reptile dishes sold at the pet store. They usually defecate in their water dishes so make sure it stays clean. Screen sided enclosures will be shredded so glass or plexiglass housing is best. Make sure the cage has a secure lock and a place for heat lights and UVB lighting on top.

Heat and Lighting

A basking temperature of 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit should be provided along with a temperature gradient down to 85 in the day and as low as 75 at night. Ceramic heat emittersare best for achieving night time temperatures instead of lights. UVB lighting is necessary for almost all lizards. A high percentage UVB output bulb (8-10%) should be on for a 10-12 hour cycle daily to mimic the sun. These bulbs should be changed every 6 months, even if the light doesn't burn out, since the invisible UVB rays expire. Diseases such as metabolic bone disease will occur without appropriate UVB rays.

Feeding Savannah Monitors

As with any exotic pet, the more natural a diet, the better. Savannahs will eat gut loaded insects such as crickets, roaches, and earthworms along with appropriately sized rodents.Pinky mice, fuzzies, adult mice, and various sized rats are the usual fare in captivity. Calcium powder should be dusted onto insects and young rodents that don't have good bone density. A low fat, high quality (grain-free) canned dog or monitor food can be fed only occasionally as too much protein can lead to disease like gout. Bedding

Savannah monitors can be voracious eaters. Therefore if they have bedding that is bite sized they may get a mouth full when trying to grab their food. If your savannah will be enjoying his dinner on his bedding, choose a bedding that won't cause an impaction.

Paper towels, butcher paper, towels, repti-carpet, felt and other easily cleaned and changed, flat bedding options are best for messy savannah's. If you prefer a more natural look go for small substrate like calcium sand that is semi-digestible in very small amounts, or just don't feed your savannah on his bedding.

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