Large lizards pets
If handled properly and regularly, even large monitor lizards can be docile pets.
Monitor lizards, all of the genus Varanus, are native to the continents of Africa, Australia and Asia, but their popularity as pets has taken them around the world. Although they can be interesting and rewarding pets, they are not for the novice as they have some special needs and can be dangerous if not handled properly.
Less than 15 of the more than 50 species of monitor lizards found in the wild are regularly kept as pets.They range in size from the dwarf, 16-inch-long spiny-tailed monitors (V. acanthurus), to the impressive 7-foot-long Nile monitors (V. niloticus). All have long forked tongues, covered with chemoreceptors that allow them to both smell and judge temperature variations with their tongue. They come in many different colors and shades but most are mottled gray or black. Their tails are very long, sometimes twice the length of their bodies. These tails are very muscular and, unlike many lizards, are not designed to break off as a defense mechanism.
As lizards go, monitor lizards are relatively smart. They can be trained to find food in a particular spot in their enclosure and will then go there when hungry. Some of the species, like the savannah monitor (V. exanthematicus), are adept at figuring out how to escape and will use the same route to escape again unless they are prevented from doing so. Most monitor lizards are aggressive by nature and, unless handled regularly when small, will likely be too dangerous to handle when they are full-sized. Monitors that feel threatened will defend themselves with their teeth, claws and tails, all of which are capable of doing damage to a person.
Monitor lizards are carnivorous. They may occasionally nibble on greens or fruit but they need high-protein meats to be the main part of their diet if they are to survive. For the smaller species, like the Timor monitor (V. timorensis), which is only about 20 inches long when fully grown, and youngsters of the larger species, this means a steady diet of insects, snails and pinkies, or baby mice. For adults of the larger species, feeding can be a challenge. To meet their needs their owners may have to supply them with rodents, young chickens or rabbits to eat.
Like all reptiles, the monitor lizards cannot internally regulate their body temperatures. In captivity, they must be provided with UV heating lamps and basking areas arranged at different distances from the heat source. This ensures that the monitors can keep themselves at an ideal temperature by moving closer to or further from the heat. The size of the cage required depends on the type of lizard being housed, but there must be enough room for the lizard to stretch out to full length and maneuver easily. Cages must provide easy access to all areas - so you can remove feces and uneaten food - and be strong and secure.
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