Savannah monitors are one of the most popular monitor lizards in the reptile industry, and they can make great pets for those that learn a few savannah monitor facts before making a purchase.
Hailing from the open forests of west and central Africa, these medium-sized monitors are impressive and attractive animals, who exhibit an array of interesting behaviors that will keep you watching them for hours.
However, they can be problematic pets for many novice reptile keepers. To be successful, you must provide them with a proper habitat, the correct food and a suitable temperature range to ensure they will thrive in your care.
1. Diet Changes
Savannah monitors primarily consume insects as juveniles before switching to a broader diet as adults.
For the first three to six months of his life, you can feed your pet crickets, mealworms and silkworms, but after reaching about 12 inches in length, you’ll need to add some frozen-thawed rodents or chicks to his diet.
2. They Need Spacious Cages
Savannah monitors are active lizards who require spacious cages. At a minimum, the cage should be twice the lizard’s length and one-and-one-half times his length in width.
However, cages two to three times this size are preferred. Try to provide as much cage height as is reasonable; 18 to 24 inches should be considered the minimum acceptable cage height.
3. They Shed A Lot
Savannah monitors tend to shed on a more-or-less consistent basis, which you’ll probably find unattractive.
You can help eliminate this problem somewhat by providing your monitor with routine soaks in room temperature water or providing him with a damp hiding place.
4. Their Looks Most Probably Change With Age
Savannah monitors often bear contrasting markings as juveniles, but these will usually fade with age.
It can be difficult to know which youngsters will keep these markings and which ones will become relatively uniform in color, so ask to see the parents of the young whenever possible.
Well-marked parents will generally produce young that retain more markings in adulthood.
5. You Should Get Gloves
Most savannah monitors reach about 3 to 4 feet in total length.
This doesn’t sound that big, but savannah monitors are powerfully built lizards that require respect.
You may want to invest in a thick pair of protective gloves to help make handling these large – and formidably clawed – animals easier.
6. Careful When You Open The Cage
Savannah monitors can become conditioned to feeding every time the cage door opens, so caution is warranted when offering food.
Always be prepared for your lizard to lunge toward the cage opening with his mouth open.
7. They Need Hiding Places
Savannah monitors require secure hiding places to feel comfortable.
Secure lizards are generally tamer than insecure lizards, so it is wise to provide your lizards with tight, dark hiding spaces.
Realize that savannah monitors do not like very large hiding spaces – they want to crawl into a small, inaccessible crack or hollow.
8. They Need A Wide Range Of Temperatures
A very important piece of savannah monitor info is that they require access to a wide range of temperatures inside their cage.
Provide your savannah monitor with a range of temperatures by placing the heat lamp at one end of the cage.
The temperatures directly under the basking spot should be between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, while the temperatures at the opposite end of the cage should be in the low 80s.
9. Climbing Is Important
Savannah monitors will climb branches placed in their cage – particularly while they are young.
Climbing helps make the lizards feel more secure, and also helps to keep their claws shorter, thanks to the rough surfaces of the branches.
10. They Become Tame
Savannah monitors often become quite tame with consistent, gentle handling.
Try to handle your lizard from a young age, so that he understands you represent no threat to him.
Let him settle into his new cage for the first few days after you acquire him, but then begin gentle handling sessions every day.
Be sure that each session lasts no longer than about 15 minutes to keep him from becoming stressed.
Learning a few savannah monitor facts is the most important part of their husbandry. By learning the facts about them – including their biology, natural history, natural habitat, feeding habits and behavior – you are more likely to keep your new pet healthy and happy.
Above all else, ensure that your new pet has access to suitable temperatures and a secure hiding place to keep his stress level low.
Stress inhibits immune function, which can lead to an array of bacterial, viral or fungal diseases. But do these things and your lizard is likely to live a long, healthy life and bring joy to your life.