Caring for Your Savannah Monitor
The inside scoop on Varanus exanthemanticus

 
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Misc Lizards 6
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Misc Lizards 10


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Watersprite

Different Watersprite

Savannah Monitor Factoids

Origin

Comes from Africa and grows to five feet

Day Temperature

85o to 95o gradient, 90o to 100o for basking

Substrate

Mat, dirt, sand, gravel, or bark

Climbing Area

Provide stout branches and rocks to climb on

Security

Prefers a security box or hiding place

Humidity

Provide a large water pan and mist often

Foods

Provide a variety

Supplements

Calcium and Vitamins

Lighting

Full-Spectrum or Sunlight

LA
18-inch savannah monitor crushing a boiled egg.  He eats the shell also.

LA
15-incher having fits with an extra large egg.

LA
We broke the egg with tongs and he finished it off.

LA
Nine-inch savannah monitors need a little slice and dice help.  They also eat the shells.

LA
Do not try this with the big guys.  Big savannah monitors can bite you severely.

 

LA
Here's how you hold one of the big honkers.  They can bite and scratch simultaneously. 

LA
Here's a little guy fresh out of the shipping container and ready to chew up the world.

LA
This guy coming out of the same container just mellow as can be.

Honkers:  Not a lizard for youngsters to keep.  Savannah monitors start out fairly harmless (almost friendly), but they get really big -- too big for most people.  Be aware that they do not stay so cute and cuddly.

LA
At this size, he eats mostly crickets.

LA
Considered a "hatchling" size.

Environment:  Savannahs come from the grassy plains (savannahs) of Africa.  They like climbing areas and swim less than the other monitors.  They still need a large “swimming pool.”  When young, these monitors love climbing rocks, loafing in the sun, and loafing in their water dish.  Cat pans make a practical size water dish for savannah monitors up to two or three feet long.

LA
Baby savannah monitors pig out on crickets.

LA
Babies are cute and tiny.

Temperature:  Monitors demand 85o or better during the day.  Too cool temperatures make them susceptible to disease.  High temperatures speed up their metabolism.  This helps them digest their food more easily and fight off diseases.  Sick monitors often respond to temperatures around 100o.  Take your ill monitor to a good lizard vet fast.  Since most are wild caught, you may need your lizard vet to de-worm yours.

LA
Different savannah monitors prefer different foods.  They all eat everything eventually.

Foods:  Start them on crickets then convert them to goldfish.  Cost-wise, feeder goldfish make an economical food.  As they approach a foot long, add mice to their menu and canned monitor food.  A small savannah cannot eat an entire can of monitor food.  Cut the canned food into portions and freeze the extras.  Add small rats (humanely killed, of course) as they grow.  We recommend the frozen ones when you can find them (thawed, of course).  They love boiled eggs.  They run after boiled eggs rolled across their tank floor.  They also eat them from your fingers.  Count your fingers after doing this.  Unshelled eggs add lots of calcium.  Hold the mayo.  Monitors will eat raw eggs, but they are really messy.  If you took Art Appreciation or participated in a football “egging,” you know how long dried raw eggs hang around.  Raw eggs also interfere with the absorption of biotin in many critters.

 

Cricket Comment:  Jumping crickets trigger your savannah monitors predator responses.  They love to chase crickets.  They like chasing crickets even more than loafing.

LA
When we lifted off their hollowed-out log, these four savannah monitors were hiding inside.

Security:  Savannah monitors, especially the little guys, need a cave or piece of wood to hide in, behind, or under.  They squeeze into nearly any crevice.  Those cork caves work great for little ones.

LA
Not many savannah monitors like to climb, but some do.

Lighting:  Savannah monitors need full-spectrum fluorescent lighting or daily sessions in real sunlight.  The closer they can climb to your bulbs, the better your bulbs work.

LA
Goldfish contain needed calcium for their fast growing bones.

LA
Swallowing an angelfish is much harder.

Supplements:  Because the bones of small savannah monitors grow so much, your baby monitors also need calcium and vitamin supplements dusted on their crickets.  If you give them pinkies (baby rodents) and goldfish, you will meet many of their mineral and vitamin needs.  If you feed the canned monitor foods, you won’t need the supplements.

Heat:  An under-cage heater plus a basking heat source make a good combination. Provide a range of temperatures for your savannah monitor if possible.  Heat rocks also provide a good basking site for the little guys.  Clean yours often to discourage bacterial growth.

LA
Room to climb and room to roam makes for a happy savannah monitor.

Water:  Savannah monitors love loafing in the water.  They try less hard to flip their water bowls than other monitors.  However, you need to use a very heavy water container or buy a heavy-duty mop.  And since they use their water bowl as their toilette, you need to change it often.

Handling: Savannah monitors tame quite easily.  Niles are harder to tame.  The smallest ones are easiest to work with.  If you handle yours daily, he soon learns to adjust to (put up with) you.

LA
Just chillin' out for a while.  Savannah monitors like to loaf (bask).

LA
Cage cleaning and hamming it up time.

LA
Easy to get along with usually.

LA
Warming your monitor up can sometimes make him bitier.

Inquisitive:  Savannah monitors like to explore their surroundings.  Give them branches and rocks to climb on and caves to explore.  If you provide them a box of sand or dirt, they will probably burrow into it for fun.  They like variety.

Next to Last Word:  Healthy savannah monitors eat like starving pigs.  They tend to gorge themselves anytime they come across excess food.  Just like us at those all-you-can-eat buffets.  Too much food and lack of exercise makes most savannahs and us obese (what used to be a polite word for lard butts).  You can easily control your savannah’s intake.  Can you control your own?  Ah -- the Zen of Savannah monitor husbandry.

LA
Savannah monitors do not stay small.
  And not all of them stay friendly.

LA
Remember that any critter that can crush a boiled egg can also bite you -- hard.

LA
The big savannah monitors that can eat a goldfish this size, can bite even harder.

LA
One quick grab and it's all but over.  He swallowed it whole, without even chewing.

LA
Crayfish have an extra crunch.

LA
Savannah monitors do like goldfish -- bigger the better.

LA
Your favorite koi died.  Put him in the fridge until your savannah monitor gets hungry.

LA
He checks him out with a lick or two before pouncing on him.

LA
He grabs it several more times so it cannot get away.

LA
Lifting him up for the final gulp.

LA
It's all over but the digestion.  Burp.  And changing his water bowl tomorrow.

LA
Very mellow savannah monitor.  

LA
But do remember that all savannah monitors are not this mellow.

LA

LA

LA

LA
Once they get it head first, it's down the hatch.

Last Words:  Savannah monitors walk around in their own digested food.  This means they probably carry salmonella.  Wash your hands after handling all reptiles.  LA.

P.S.  You can also find subspecies of savannah monitors.  One of the niftiest is the black-throat monitor below.

LA
Black-throats tame more easily but cost maybe four times as much as the regulars.

LA
Just as snoopy as the regular savannahs.

LA
Much easier to tame.

LA
This could be why they call them black-throat monitors.

© 1997, © 2003, © 2004, © 2005, © 200LA Productions

3600 Sixth Avenue

Corner of Sixth & Euclid Avenues

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