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Keeping Monitor Lizards successfully Print E-mail
Captive Care of Monitors
Extract from A Little Book of Monitor Lizards © D. Bennett 1995. Viper Press, UK

The 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. In my opinion, it is irresponsible to keep wild animals such as monitor lizards in captivity without at least attempting to breed them. Whilst keeping monitors alive in captivity, though not always an easy task, is one that is quite often accomplished, getting them to breed is still a rare occurrence and as such, it is the ultimate challenge to all keepers of these magnificent creatures.

According to CITES figures, trade in a minimum of 55,775 live monitor lizards was reported between 1975 and 1986. Between 1987 and 1993 the figure rose to over 270,000. This figure is probably a gross underestimate of the true numbers involved, but is nevertheless minuscule when compared with the Centre's figures for monitor skin and by-products (see Chapter 5). Unfortunately, the vast majority of live monitors exported to foreign countries fare no better than those exported as leather. Many die lingering deaths in enclosures that are neither large nor warm enough. Many people find such treatment of wild animals to be as repugnant as slaughtering them for their skins. They have no control over the fate of animals in Africa or Asia, but they campaign actively at home to stop the sale of exotic animals as pets, or even to outlaw the keeping of wild animals in captivity altogether. They argue that as well as being cruel the practise depletes wild populations, increases the risk of exotic escapees becoming established and, when species perceived as being dangerous are involved, poses a threat to the general public.

Their case is supported by a few unfortunate cases of foolishness and significantly more cases of neglect. As far as monitor lizards are concerned, none of the species traded in large numbers appear to be under any threat, real or potential, from the CITES regulated wildlife trade. Live specimens account for less than 1% of the overall trade of animals and products made from them. It is true that an unacceptable number of specimens fare badly in captivity. This can be attributed to ignorance due to a lack of available information about their way of life in the wild and their care in captivity. The trade in live monitors creates small numbers of reliable jobs in some of the poorest parts of the world. It also has the potential to greatly facilitate studies of the animals in the wild. Thanks largely to the efforts of a few pioneers, it has been established that it is quite possible to breed monitor lizards in captivity providing a few basic criteria are met. There is still a great deal to be learned however and the threat of legislation that will prevent further progress is very real in many places.

The purpose of this book is to bridge the gap between general guides to the care of reptiles in captivity and detailed guides to the captive propagation of monitor lizards that, as yet, appear not to exist. What follows is based entirely upon my own opinions and many, more authoritative, readers may disagree with some of my comments.

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