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Reptiles found in the Kruger – The white throated monitor

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White throated monitor
White throated monitor lizard.
Monitor lizards include various types of the world’s largest lizards known for their long necks, powerful tails and strong, muscular limbs. These are diurnal animals and almost all monitor lizards are carnivorous.

The white-throated monitor, commonly known as a rock monitor, is the second largest monitor found in Africa and can live up to between 12 and 20 years.

This large lizard, which can reach an impressive 6 feet in length, has a grey or brown head while their throat is white. Their body has dark coloured rosette-like patterns with a cream coloured centre and as they age the centre merges with the rosettes creating bands around their ribcage. Their limbs are sometimes a spotted pale yellow and their tails have a pattern of dark brown and off-white bands. Colours of individual white-throated monitors can vary. 

These monitors have a distinctively blunt and bulbous snout. Monitors tails, which can grow to be twice as long as their body, have many uses such as that of a rudder to steer while swimming or for grasping prey and as a weapon used against predators.
Egyptian legend

The story goes that in the early days of Egyptian civilization, monitor lizards were chained up to boulders along the edge of the Nile River. If the lizard was calmly basking in the sun, the water was believed to be safe from crocodiles but if the lizard was thrashing and struggling to escape the chains, it meant that crocs were about. The superstition believed that these lizards monitored the whereabouts of crocodiles hence the name ‘monitor lizard’.

White throated monitor
White monitor lizard in its natural habitat. 
Habitat

White throated monitors are found in savanna or semi-desert regions of southern and central Africa including parts of South Africa, Angola, Zambia and Mozambique among others.  

They are seen existing within many of Africa’s diverse habitats, including savannas, shrub lands, woodlands, grass lands, rocky outcrops and combinations of these habitats.

Male monitors are super territorial about their domain of about 11 km (seven miles), engaging in battle with any other male they encounter, while females make a home of only just over 3 km (2 miles) in size.

Behaviour

White throated monitors climb trees in order to hunt prey, escape the heat during a hot African summers day, find protection from predators or sleep safely at night.

If they come face to face with a predator on the ground, monitors will puff up their throats and body to appear larger, while striking with their powerful tail and biting fiercely.


Diet

White throated monitors enjoy a varied diet of mostly insects, such as millipedes, grasshoppers and beetles, but also eat anything from snails and snakes through to birds and eggs.

They swallow their food either whole or in large pieces and are able to dislocate their hyoid bone in order to expand their throat.
White throated monitor
The white throat of the monitor. 

Reproduction

During the mating season an approachable female will almost always climb up a tree in wait for a male to discover her. The attracted pair mate, for one to two days, after which the male leaves in search for another female monitor.

In the early summer months up to 50 eggs are laid in a clutch by a female monitor, dependent on her size. She will use her long and sharp claws to dig her own hole or even use a termite mound or rodent den to lay the eggs.

Did you know?

Monitor lizards shed their teeth and grow new ones throughout their lives. 

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