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Captive Care
lbmlgreen.jpgFirst published in 1995 by Viper Press (the publishing arm of Mampam Conservation), Daniel Bennett's "Little Book of Monitor Lizards" survived subsequent editions in German and an edited English addition to appear online in 1999, once more under the complete control of the author. Still one of the most comprehensive and accurate guide to monitor lizards ever published, the "Little Book of Monitor Lizards" is now used as a source of funding for projects worldwide concerned with monitor lizard conservation, research and education. The original edition is available here

Pet Crocodile Monitors
ImageThe crocodile monitor, Varanus salvadorii, is perhaps responsible for more hospital visits than any other lizard in the USA, despite the fact that only about 200 are legally imported each year. Crocodile monitors have a remarkable set of teeth that inflict deep and severe flesh wounds. The most serious result in permanent disability and almost all crocodile monitor bites leave permanent scars. Read about people's experiences with Varanus salvadorii in our review.
Should I get a Monitor Lizard?
ImageI don't keep monitor lizards, but lots of people ask me for advice on the subject. If you are new to monitor keeping and want to know which is the best species to keep you will find a mryiad of advice both online and in print on the subject. Most people would advise you to get something "easy" like a savanna monitor (Varanus exanthematicus). I strongly disagree. Hundreds of thousands of savanna monitors have been caught in the wild and exported to Europe and the US in the last decade, virtually all of which are dead within a year or so.
Can I trust people who sell "captive bred" monitors?
ImageAlthough captive breeding of monitor lizards has been revolutionised over the last ten years, the proportion of captive bred animals in the trade is still miniscule. This is because captive breeding has tended to concentrate on Australian species, with an emphasis on the dwarf (Odatria) species.
Keeping Monitor Lizards successfully
ImageThe following chapters are dedicated to keeping monitor lizards successfully in captivity. "Successfully" does not mean that the animals merely live a disease-free existence until old age causes their ultimate demise. It means that all the functions of life are performed by the animals as they would be in nature, including reproduction.
Monitor Lizards & International Law
ImageNearly all countries are signatories of the CITES convention which controls the trade in animals and plants considered to be vulnerable to commercial exploitation. All species of monitor lizard are afforded protection under this legislation. It is not lawful to transport the animals across international boundaries without a CITES export certificate from the country of origin and a CITES import certificate from the country of destination.
Monitors as Pets
ImageThe Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines a pet as "any animal that is domesticated or tamed and kept as a favourite, or treated with fondness". Monitor lizards can certainly not be domesticated. If you allow one the run of your home it will cause untold damage without showing the slightest remorse. If you let it out of the house it is highly unlikely that it will ever come back of its own accord.
"Taming" Monitors
ImageWell-kept monitor lizards do not require any grooming. If their toenails become too long and need to be cut this should be taken as an indication that the furnishings in the enclosure are unsuitable. Dead skin should come off of its own accord. If it needs to be pulled off this indicates that some environmental parameter (probably humidity) is incorrect.
How much space do they need?
ImageA myth, that is extraordinarily common considering its stupidity, is that an animal "will grow to the size of its surroundings, and then stop"! This, of course, is utter nonsense. A healthy reptile never stops growing, from the day it is laid to the day it dies. Many monitor lizards spend most of the day fast asleep, and may not initially appear to very active animals. However when they do move they tend to cover a lot of distance.
Food & Supplements
ImageNo expense should be spared when raising animals destined to be fed to monitor lizards. They should be fed only fresh foods and kept under the best conditions possible. For guidance on breeding insects, rodents, snails and other suitable prey items you should consult members of your local herpetological society. With the exception of Gray's monitor (whose diet in captivity is discussed in Chapter 6), plants do not figure in the diets of monitor lizards.
Disease & Choosing a Monitor
ImageUnfortunately, the diseases of monitor lizards are many and the cures are few (Kohler 1992; Stanfill 1995). The good news is that once an imported monitor is cleared of disease, it should be possible to keep it that way by keeping its enclosure and furnishings clean and avoiding any contact with sources of contamination such as wild foods and other reptiles whose health is suspect or unknown.
Sexing Monitor Lizards
ImageObviously in order to attempt to breed monitor lizards it is necessary to have at least one male and one female. Unfortunately they are notoriously difficult animals to sex.
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About Mampam
Bye Bye Butaan


Butaan start to visit fruiting trees before they are large enough to swallow the fruits. They make repeat journeys to trees, perhaps to reinforce memory of the position of the tree. If the youngster survives it may continue to use this tree for many decades. Fruiting trees like this are a vital resource for entire populations of butaan. Learn more >

Help Mampam
The Butaan Project
Varanus bitatawa

Varanus bitatawa is the third species of  monitor lizard to be recognised by science that belongs to the "Pandan Biawak" group,  all of which are of at least as great a conservation concern as the Komodo dragon, but receive virtually none of the attention. Pandan Biawak occur only in lowland dipterocarp forest. The first species (Varanus olivaceus or Butaan) was discovered in 1845 and not seen alive by a scientist until the late 1970s. The next species (Varanus mabitang or Mabitang) was discovered in 2001 and in 2010 Varanus bitatawa (Butikaw or Bitatawa) was described. Other species of frugivorous monitor lizards may remain undescribed, but many may have  gone extinct without ever having been recognised.




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