The Cape monitor lizard is a giant lizard, which, according to zoologists, is most suitable for keeping at home. However, lovers of exotic representatives of flora and fauna should take into account that, like any other reptiles, they are prone to unpredictable and unexpected manifestations of aggression. Often, animal bites end in severe inflammation or even sepsis.
Depending on the region of habitat, the lizard has several names: steppe, savannah, or Bosca monitor lizard. The latter got its name in honor of the French explorer Louis Augustin Bosca.
Origin of the species and description
The Cape monitor lizard is a representative of chordate reptiles, allocated to the squamous order, family and genus monitor lizards, a species of steppe monitor lizard. Monitor lizards are considered the largest of all existing on earth, and at the same time the most ancient. Their history goes back millions of years. According to studies, the ancient ancestors of the Cape monitor lizards existed on earth more than two hundred million years ago. The exact period of the appearance of these representatives of the animal world on earth is very problematic.
Video: Cape monitor lizard
The most ancient remains of lizards of that time were discovered in Germany. They belonged to an ancient taxon and were approximately 235-239 million years old. Many studies have helped to understand that the ancestors of this species of reptiles were among the first to appear on earth after the global Permian extinction and a significant warming of the climate of that time. The formation of signs of lepidasaurus in the ancestors of large lizards began approximately in the early Triassic period.
In the same period, glands synthesizing poisonous substances were formed in them. In the middle of the Cretaceous period, the number of ancient lizards reached its peak, and they filled the ocean with themselves, displacing the ichthyosaurs. For the next forty million years, a new generation existed in this territory – masosaurs. Subsequently, they were supplanted by mammals.
Masosaurs dispersed to various corners of the earth, giving rise to various types of lizards. It is worth noting that since the origin of the lizards, they have managed to maintain an almost pristine appearance.
Appearance and features
The Cape, or steppe monitor lizard is distinguished by its rather large size and strong body with well-developed muscles. The body length of an adult reptile is 1-1.3 meters. When kept in kennels or at home with enough food, body size can exceed 1.5 meters.
In steppe monitor lizards, sexual dimorphism is insignificantly expressed – males somewhat predominate in size over females. It is impossible to distinguish animals by external sexual characteristics. However, their behavior is different. Females are calmer and more secretive, males are more active.
The Cape monitor lizard has a rather large head due to its massive mouth with strong jaws. No less powerful teeth grow into the jaws. The posterior incisors are broad and blunt. The teeth, together with the jaws of the reptile, are so strong and powerful that they can easily gnaw and break the protective shells and other hard covers of animals.
Interesting fact: Lizard teeth tend to grow back if they fall out.
In the mouth is a long, forked tongue, which is used as an organ of smell. On the lateral surfaces of the head are round eyes, which are covered by movable eyelids. Directly next to the eyes are the auditory passages, which are directly connected to the sensor. Lizards don't have good hearing.
The limbs of this species of reptiles are strong and short. The fingers have long and thick claws. With their help, monitor lizards move quite quickly along the ground and are able to dig the ground. Monitor lizards have a flattened long tail that has a double dorsal crest. The tail is used as a means of self-defense.
The body is covered with brown scales. The color can be different, light or dark. The color of the lizards depends on the color of the ground in the region where the lizard lives.
Where does the Cape monitor live?
The Cape monitor lizard lives in regions with a warm climate. The homeland of the lizard is the African continent. The largest number of individuals is observed south of the Sahara desert. It can also be found in the central and western regions, or further south towards the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Within the African continent, the Cape or steppe monitor prefers savannahs, but adapts well to living in other regions. The exceptions are tropical forests, sand dunes and desert areas. Feels great in rocky terrain, woodland, pastures or even agricultural land.
Geographical regions of the steppe monitor:
- western Ethiopia region;
- Burkina Faso;
- Republic Ivory Coast;
Cape monitor lizards often inhabit regions located near farms. They prefer to settle in burrows that other species of invertebrates dig. They eat their hosts and feed on insects that live nearby. As they grow and increase in size, lizards expand their hiding places. They spend most of the daytime in burrows.
Sometimes they can hide in trees, as they can climb them perfectly. They can hang for a long time in the crowns of tall trees. An important criterion for monitor lizard habitat is sufficient humidity, as dehydration can occur in conditions that are too dry.
What does the Cape monitor lizard eat?
Various species form the basis of the diet insects.
What is the food base of the Cape monitor lizard:
- various types of orthoptera – grasshoppers, crickets;
- a small snail;
- large nods;
The steppe monitor lizards have a special tactic of eating poisonous insects. Before eating a poisonous insect, they rub it on their chin for a long time. In this way they manage to neutralize all the poison.
As they grow and increase in size, the need for food increases. However, breeders of exotic lizards should remember that it is better to slightly underfeed them than overfeed them, as excessive food consumption threatens with various diseases leading to the death of animals.
As they grow, the diet of lizards is replenished with small invertebrates and arthropods. Cape monitor lizards do not disdain even a scorpion, which skillfully dug into the ground. Their tongues help them locate their prey, and their strong paws and claws help them quickly retrieve spiders and scorpions from the ground.
In exceptional cases, a small mammal can become a prey for a monitor lizard. This is due to the fact that in the regions where reptiles live, insects are the most accessible food. Sometimes monitor lizards can profit from carrion, or insects that surround it in large numbers. However, they are very wary of such a food source, since in this case they themselves risk becoming the prey of carnivores that can hide nearby.
Many lizard breeders feed them mice. This is fundamentally wrong, since when living in natural conditions, rodents rarely eat such food. In this regard, they may develop indigestion, or intestinal obstruction due to stray hair. When kept at home, quail eggs, seafood, meat can be suitable as a food base.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Cape monitor lizards are solitary reptiles. They lead a rather secretive and secluded life. Most of the day is spent in burrows, or in the crowns of tall trees, where, in addition to shade and moisture, a large number of insects live. Mostly they have a calm character, aggression is extremely rare. Differ in quick adaptability to changing environmental conditions. By nature, they are endowed with the ability to swim perfectly. It is in this regard that more than other large lizards are suitable for keeping at home.
Males occupy a certain territory and are very attached to it. When strangers appear, they can fight for their territory. Such rivalry begins with intimidation of each other. If such methods are not effective, they violently engage in combat with the enemy. It looks like a club of bodies woven together. In this manner of fighting, opponents strive to bite their enemy as hard as possible.
An interesting fact: The manifestation of aggression and anger of a lizard is expressed in hissing and turning its tail.
Females are less active than males. Activity can be shown not only at night, but also during the day. During the day, they search for suitable shelter and forage for food. In extreme heat, they hide in shelters. For orientation in space, a long forked tongue is used, which is protruded up to 50 times within one and a half to two minutes.
Social structure and reproduction
For reproduction, Cape monitor lizards lay eggs. Puberty is reached by individuals who have reached one year of age. The mating season begins in August – September. A month later, they are already creating pairs for themselves. The mother-to-be is actively looking for a suitable place to lay her eggs. As such, they most often use natural depressions in the ground, which are located in dense thickets of shrubs, in forests.
In early to mid-winter, the female lays her eggs and masks them with a substrate. After the nest is disguised, the female leaves it. Cape monitor lizards do not have a pronounced maternal instinct, so they do not incubate it and do not care about its safety. The abundance of masonry helps babies survive. One female lays up to five dozen eggs at a time.
One hundred days after laying, small lizards appear. They hatch with the onset of spring, when the rainy season begins in the region where the lizards live. It is during this period that the largest amount of food supply is noted.
Lizards are born completely independent, and do not need care and protection. They are able to get their own food. Newborn babies reach a size of 12-15 centimeters. After birth, the lizards actively scatter to the sides and begin to look for a suitable shelter. They hide in the roots of trees, bushes, abandoned tree bark.
On the first day after hatching from eggs, they go hunting and eat any insects that suit them in size. Small insects, snails, slugs – everything that kids can catch serves as their food base.
Interesting fact: The average life expectancy in natural conditions has not been precisely established. Presumably, she reaches 8-9 years. At home, with the right content, it can increase to 13-14 years.
Natural enemies of Cape monitor lizards
In the wild, the Cape monitor lizard has quite a few enemies. Young, immature, small lizards are considered especially vulnerable. Their tail is not powerful and strong enough to repel the attack of a predator, which is in many ways superior in size and strength.
The main natural enemies of lizards:
- birds are hunters of reptiles;
- relatives of the monitor lizard itself, which surpass their prey in size;
Man is considered the main enemy of the lizard. In the past, people actively hunted Cape monitor lizards for their hide and tender meat. In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for lizards themselves among hobbyists and breeders of exotic animals and reptiles. Today, people not only kill monitor lizards, but also catch them, destroy their nests and eggs, and for the purpose of further sale. This method allows some representatives of the local population to earn big money.
Due to the fact that Cape monitor lizards settle near human settlements, it will not be difficult to catch them. The average cost of one individual is 6-11 thousand rubles. The greatest demand for lizards is observed in the spring and summer. It was during this period that lovers and connoisseurs of the exotic tend to acquire young, recently hatched monitor lizards.
The local population still kills Cape or steppe monitor lizards for the purpose of obtaining a skin, from which hides, belts, bags and purses are made in large quantities.
Population and species status
Currently, the number of Cape, or steppe monitor lizard does not represent any concern, and is controlled by the IUCN. They live in large numbers not only within the African continent, but also in nurseries, zoos, and among breeders of exotic animals and lizards.
However, not everyone who gets these representatives of reptiles knows how to take care and maintain them properly. Often this is the cause of death or disease of monitor lizards. In addition, it is not possible to breed lizards at home, as they simply will not breed in captivity. This is due to limited space and insufficient space in the terrarium.
On the territory of the African continent, no measures are taken to limit or prohibit the hunting or trapping of the Cape or steppe monitor lizard. Since nothing threatens their numbers today, no measures are provided for punishment for killing or capturing a lizard. Also, there are no programs aimed at preserving the species and increasing its population. In captivity, Cape monitor lizards are even able to recognize their owners, follow the simplest commands, respond to a nickname if he was adopted into the family at a young age.
The Cape monitor lizard is an amazing lizard that is distinguished by exceptional intelligence and quick wit. They are absolutely not aggressive, and quickly adapt to changed environmental conditions. Thanks to these qualities, this particular type of reptile is very popular as pets.