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Varanus mitchelli Print E-mail
Mitchell's goanna

Varanus mitchelli       Mertens 1958

Mitchell's monitor is a small arboreal goanna found along the waterways of northern Western Australia and Northern Territory. Its long compressed tail led Mertens (1958) to place the species in the subgenus Varanus along with other large Australian goannas, but more recent studies suggest that this is a dwarf monitor of the Odatria subgenus (e.g. Baverstock et al 1994). This lively little goanna reaches a maximum size of about 70cm TL. The tail is 173-210% of SVL (Storr 1980). At hatching they measure less than 8cm SVL and sexual maturity is attained in both sexes at about 22cm SVL (Shine 1986).

Varanus mitchelli
Mitchell's goanna is found in both freshwater and marine habitats. They are said to inhabit mangrove swamps and coasts as well as along inland rivers, streams, lakes and billabongs. Around Jabiru, Northern Territory, they occupy areas that are only intermittently flooded and are usually seen on trees close to the water. During the wet season they expand their habitat to take advantage of temporarily flooded areas (Shine 1986). Diet in this area is comprised largely of fish and crabs, together with frogs, lizards, reptile eggs, small mammals, nestling birds and terrestrial invertebrates (orthopterans, arachnids, beetles etc.). A specimen examined by Losos & Greene (1986) also contained a frog and Schmida (1985) considered frogs to be their most important prey item (he considers this diet to be responsible for the large numbers of parasites which the goannas harbour). At Jaribu breeding occurs during the dry season, with gravid females found from April - June containing up to 12 small (2.5 X 1.3cm, volume 4.4cc) eggs. The diet of Mitchell's goanna indicates that they forage both on the ground and in the water. However, during most of the day (and throughout the night) they rest on tree branches overhanging the water (Peters 1971b, Shine 1986).

There appear to be no published reports of captive breeding for Mitchell's goanna. In captivity they are said to be very nervous and shy (Peters 1971b; Murphy 1972) and need to be housed in a large, high enclosure with high temperatures and plenty of hiding places, both on and above the ground. In general they tolerate each other well but may harass smaller or weaker lizards. Their diet should contain animals of both aquatic and terrestrial origin.


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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 >

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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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