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Should I get a Monitor Lizard? Print E-mail
Captive Care of Monitors

Extract from A Little Book of Monitor Lizards © D. Bennett 1995. Viper Press, UK

I 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. Captive breeding of this species is practically non-existent. My observations of the species in the wild lead me to suspect it is a highly specialised feeder and the fact that so many are imported and so few breed lead me to believe that this animal is not suitable for people not well experienced in monitor husbandry. Admittedly it is a very tough animal and even in the worst conditions it takes a very long time to die, but this is not the same as being "easy to keep".

My advice is to get captive bred animals. I don't have anything to do with buying or selling monitor lizards and my commercial interests in the subject go no further than selling books and securing research grants. Therefore I'm not able to give advice about where to find captive bred animals so please don't bother asking. You will find contact details of monitor breeders elsewhere on the web. I would advise you to ask around and find suppliers with a good reputation. MANY people sell animals as captive bred that have actually been taken from the wild. As for which species, virtually any, as long as they are captive bred. Buying wild-caught monitors is a very dubious thing to do. They have the right to roam in the fresh air and sunshine and get cooked in soup and eaten by snakes, they should not end up dying very slow deaths in boxes. Catching wild animals for the pet trade involves hundreds of thousands of animals each year, virtually all of which die miserable deaths. I am sure that if the problem is not corrected soon it will result in extreme legislation that outlaws the keeping of many animals. But it doesn't have to be like that. What happens depends very largely on whether the animal buying public can behave responsibly. Buying creatures such as wild caught savanna monitors is not a responsible behaviour. Buy captive bred animals only, they will be much more rewarding and you can enjoy your animals without the guilt of being a destroyer of wildlife.

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The Butaan Project
The Butaan Project - Research
butaan3.jpgThe only obligate fruit-eaters among reptiles are three species of monitor lizard that live in the Philippines. Frugivorous vertebrates tend to be able to fly (almost all are bats and birds) and so these lizards have a unique ecological role as highly specialized and relatively immobile fruit eaters. Before this project started, the only studies of this unique giant and endangered lizard had involved killing the animals. We have developed a set of techniques that allow us to learn about these animals in a completely non-destructive way.


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