Monitor Lizard

Monitor Lizards are the worlds largest lizards and are found in Africa, Asia, South America and Australia. They have long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs. They all belong to the genus Varanus and are all carrion eaters, but also eat fresh prey like smaller lizards, mammals and eggs. The largest of the species, the Komodo dragon, which can weigh up to 165 kilograms will take large animals like water buffalo. There are 48 species in this genus and three quarters of these species are found in Australia. The Lace Monitor or Goanna, Varanus Varanusis found in Mt Evelyn.

How did the monitor lizard get its name?

In the course of my work as a Guide at Healesville Sanctuary, I met a man who said he was an Egyptologist. It was he who told me this story.

In Egypt, in the early days of civilization, the Egyptians villages were found along the Nile River. This was their main source of water. The Nile was where the Egyptians would wash their clothes, bathe, cook and clean, and swim in the hot weather. It was their life line. But the Nile had a problem. Crocodiles. How were the Egyptians to know when it was safe to enter the water, without risking being eaten?

The Egyptians devised a scheme. They would catch one of their large Varanus Lizards and chain it by its front paws to a large boulder on the edge of the river. If the Lizard was lying peacefully sunning itself, the Egyptians knew it was safe to enter the water. If however it was thrashing about and struggling to get away, they knew that danger was lurking nearby. A crocodile was in the area. The lizard didn’t want to be eaten so it would struggle to get loose of its chains.

This is how the Monitor Lizard got its name. It monitored the Crocodiles movements. All the large lizards of the family Varanusare known as monitor lizards but only in Australia are they also known as Goannas.

Written by Clare Warsnop.