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

The 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. They can be tamed in as much as some individuals will eventually learn to tolerate gentle handling without showing aggression (especially when deprived of sunshine and fresh air), but expecting them to obey any commands, or show the slightest affinity for anything but other monitor lizards is unreasonable. Monitor lizards are ancient, intelligent and beautiful creatures capable of living "happily" in captivity for many years, but to describe them as pet animals would be misleading.

Safety
Monitor lizards survive by catching, killing and defending themselves against other animals. Therefore they are equipped with sharp teeth, strong jaws and powerful claws. Only adults of a few, very large, species have the potential to inflict serious injuries on people but all monitors can inflict scarring wounds and they should always be treated with caution. The most common wounds inflicted by monitor lizards are scratches to wrists and forearms whilst the animals are being handled. The tail is used as a whip in defence and can be mobilised with great speed and force. But the jaws are of the greatest concern. They sink through flesh to the bone and then shake with all their might.

Handling wild animals is not something you can learn from a book. Herpetological societies always have members who are happy to share their expertise. Wild monitors should not be handled without a pair of stout gloves that afford protection to the wrists. They should be seized from above by grabbing the back of the head and the base of the tail in one movement, so that the lizards cannot turn to bite. Obviously very large specimens should be restrained with a noose and require more than one person to lift them. Lifting the lizards by the tail is a very bad practise that can result in injury to either party. Animals kept inside are often much more docile than those kept in open air. Ditmars (1910) records an incident in which some very docile water monitors were moved outside for the summer whereupon they immediately reverted to their wild state, attacking their keeper at every opportunity. Once deprived of fresh air and sunshine they soon became placid and friendly again.

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Savannah Monitor Book

 

Our pet-owners' guide to savannah monitor lizard is the first ever written by people who have studied the animals in the wild and bred them in captivity. There are at least seven books in print about the savannah monitor, but we think this is the only one worth reading! Last few available 

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