Savannah Monitor Essay, Research Paper
Savannah monitors (Varanus exanthematicus) are medium-sized monitor lizards that are usually readily available in most reptile specialty stores and from breeders. They are intelligent (for lizards), beautiful, usually tame pretty easily, and do not grow as large as some monitors. Savannahs usually are less expensive to purchase than some of the other monitor species. Savannah monitors hail from Africa, and they are also listed as a “threatened” species in their natural habitat, due to the pet trade, trade in reptile skins, and the fact that they are used in their native countries as a source of food.
Savannah monitors are usually first purchased as hatchlings or juveniles. Remember that although they look small and cute when they are this age, they will grow to three feet or beyond and weigh around 11-12+ pounds when they are fully grown. They also require a large amount of space and a fairly large amount of food to be maintained properly. Any monitor, including Savannah monitors, should be treated with respect, because they are extremely strong for their size, and have very sharp teeth. I have never been bitten by mine, and wouldn’t want to be. A bite from one of these lizards can even require stitches. Not trying to scare anyone off, just giving you information that you should know before purchasing a monitor lizard. I also believe that the Savannah monitor is one of the best monitor lizards to start with. They are well known for becoming tame in captivity, especially if you are willing to invest time into taming them. Some Savannahs almost seem to be affectionate towards their owners.
When selecting an enclosure for your monitor, you will want to buy one as large as possible to start. A 30 gallon to 55 gallon tank is a good size to start for a young Savannah monitor. The general rule for sizing a cage is one and a half to two or more times the lizard from nose to base of tail in length, two thirds to one times the lizard in width, and one to one and a half times the lizard in height. When your monitor reaches adult size, it will be necessary to either purchase or build a custom cage. The bigger the better as far as cage size goes. These lizards tend to become overweight and lazy if not given the opportunity to move around and get enough exercise. If you’re lucky enough to have an extra room you can “lizard proof”, this is another option. Whether you decide to build your own or have someone else build it for you, remember to make sure the cage is secure and has a locking door of some sort. Savannahs are very smart, very strong, and very good at escaping. Once they figure out how to get out, they will continue to do it over and over until the problem is fixed. There are several types of ground cover that you can use for Savannah Monitor cages.
I use artificial turf, and have had success with it. It can be cut to fit, taken out and washed when dirty, and inexpensively replaced when worn out. Other types of ground cover that we have used are wood chips and newspaper. If using wood chips, avoid using cedar since it is toxic. Newspaper is definitely the easiest, and probably the cleanest option if changed frequently when dirty.
Savannah monitors come from a hot, fairly dry climate. They need to be kept pretty warm in captivity also. The daytime temperature should reach 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and about 10 to 15 degrees cooler at night. You will need a thermometer in the cage to keep track of the temperature. Heat during the day can be provided with basking lights. You can also use heat tape, reptile heating pads, and hot rocks to supplement the light heat. Heating pads and hot rocks should be checked often to make sure they are not getting hot enough to burn your lizard (105 degrees and above can cause burns). Savannah monitors are active during the day, so they should be provided with between 12 and 14 hours of daylight. At night, your monitor can be kept warm with infrared lights, ceramic heat emitters, heat tape, or some sort of reptile-safe heating pad. It’s really up to you what you prefer.
Savannah monitors are usually pretty eager feeders, unless they are sick or in breeding season. Very young lizards (1 foot and under) can be fed baby mice (pinkies, fuzzies, hoppers), crickets, and earthworms. They should be fed one to four rodents every two to three days, supplementing their diet with crickets, earthworms, etc. You can judge what size rodent you should be feeding them by the size of their head and mouth when fully open. Sometimes feeding them prey that is too large will cause them to vomit up the meal a couple of days later. This is probably the worst smell in the world, so you will definitely want to avoid this if at all possible. Juvenile monitors (1 foot to adult size) can be fed one to four adult mice twice a week. Adult monitors (3 feet and up) should be fed twice a week. You will have to use your judgment to determine how much to feed them. They tend to eat more than is good for them if given the chance. I feed mine small to medium-sized rats, one or two per feeding depending on the size of the rodent. I use canned cat food occasionally, but I don’t offer it as a staple diet. Cat food is very rich and fattening and can cause diarrhea. Our monitors seem to also like ZuPreem Tegu and Monitor food. I feed this to them only on occasion, and it doesn’t seem to cause the runny stools like cat food. Our monitors diet is also supplemented with crickets. They seem to enjoy them, and chasing the crickets around also encourages them to exercise.
If Savannah monitors are not allowed to exercise enough and fed too much, they will get fat. This is not good for monitors; in fact it can shorten their life span. On the other hand, if young Savannahs are fed only small amounts of food while they are growing, they can become stunted. Most healthy Savannahs will eat at any opportunity, and like many of us humans; they will eat more than is good for them if given the chance! Again, you will have to use your judgment to decide what feeding regimen is best for your lizard.
The Savannah Monitor makes for an interesting and easily maintained pet to keep, and live for many years. If you are thinking about purchasing a new pet, consider taking a look at the monitor family.
“The General Care and Maintenance of Savannah Monitors”