This first Chantelle’s Reptiles post is about the Nile Monitor (Varanus Niloticus), both in the wild and in captivity.
The Nile Monitor is one of Africa’s most ferocious lizards; having the capability to grow anywhere between 3 – 7 ft in length, averaging approximate 5 ft long. They averagely weigh around 6 – 8 kg, and some larger individuals can weigh as much as 20 kg! They have a forked tongue, just like a snake; tgey use their tongue to help them locate prey. This is definitely a lizard that is best owned by experienced keepers!
THE NILE MONITOR is a large lizard; they’re the longest lizard in Africa, and there’s not many animals that are equipped enough to challenge them! They are hefty but fast, not only excelling on land but also in the water – making them a top predator.
Along with their powerful jaws and razor sharp claws, they have a tail that may grow more than 3.5 ft in length! It serves as a counterweight when running, an oar to help power it through the water, and a whip – to lash out at an assailant, in self-defence. These lizards have a elongated snake-like head and a very muscular tail; physiological advantages not only in water, but also in defence and combat.
I myself have been whipped a fair amount of times by my pet Nile Monitor and even though they’re still a baby, it does hurt! As an adult, if you were to be whipped by their tail, it could break bones and cause a really painful injury. You definitely don’t want to mess with one of these once they’re fully grown!
Nile Monitors have been kept and bred in captivity for quite a few years now, but it’s still very uncommon to find one that’s tame.
As adults, they need an enclosure that’s about the same size as your average ‘small bedroom’. They also need access to a large water area, as they’re semi-aquatic. Most people use baths or outdoor fish ponds as a way to provide them with a place to swim and soak. So, not only are they known for being aggressive, but they also require a lot more care and enrichment, than what some people are able to offer! These reptiles really should only be owned by someone who’s experienced and… well, someone who doesn’t mind their hands being covered in scratches 24/7, because with handling these guys, their claws will definitely cause some damage!
THE DIET OF the Nile Monitor consists of bugs (and only bugs) up until the age of one year; this is because all monitor species are prone to obesity, as too many people, unfortunately, do not understand their care needs properly. As they are known to eat them in the wild, people tend to believe that Nile Monitors can eat a lot of rodents – this, however, is not true at all! When over-fed on rodents, Nile Monitors will grow far too fast (this is known as ‘power feeding’) and will also cause the animal to become very overweight. Rats and mice are one of the most commonly bought food items for reptiles, so they’re believed to be fine for all. Whilst this is true in most cases, for some, one too many can prove deadly!
In the wild, it’s not that much of a problem how much they consume, as wild Nile Monitors have constant access to a huge amount of trees, rocks and rivers, that provide them with enough ‘obstacles’ and space to roam and exercise; making it very hard for them to become overweight. In the wild, you won’t find a lazy Nile Monitor!
As well as their diet not always being adequate; people who own them, often being unable to provide them with a large enough enclosure and sufficient enrichment, in captivity is also another reason why they are prone to gaining weight.
A note from Ali’s Answers: Always do research into an animal, before purchasing it as a pet; ensuring you have the means to provide a good level of care for it.
All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.
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