The Nile Monitor is
a species of reptiles extensively spread across its habitat. Known in different
names like African small-grain lizard,
water leguaan, or river leguaan, it is Africa’s largest lizard and a voracious predator at that. Because
of their aggressive and unyielding temperament, with a powerful bite and a frequently-lashing tail, they are not known to
make good pets, unlike many other monitor
Size: Adult Nile monitors can be about 120 to 220 cm (3 ft 11 in to 7 ft 3 in) in length, with the largest recorded specimens measuring 244 cm (8 ft), and the average snout-to-vent length being 50 cm (1 ft 8 in).
Weight: Body mass
varies widely, with the largest recorded being 20 kg (44 lb).
Head: The head is
elongated and snake-like, with a wide mouth, small and black eyes, tiny
nose/nostrils, and forked tongue.
Body & Skin: The
skin is tough and beady with greyish-brown and greenish-yellow on the dorsal
side of the head, body, and tail along
with yellow colored spots, while the underside and throat (ventral side) is
ochre- to creamy-yellow.
well-muscled feet bearing sharp claws for climbing, digging, defense, and
tearing the prey.
jaws with sharp and pointed in immature specimens, and become blunt and
peg-like in the adults.
Sexual Dimorphism: This
species exhibits no differences between the sexes.
In the wild, the longevity status of the Nile monitor is 10 and 20 years, with an average of 10.6 years in captivity.
These large African monitors are scattered through much of
sub-Saharan Africa – from Senegal to Somalia, down to northeastern parts of
South Africa. They are also seen along the river Nile up into the southern regions
Nile monitors are found
in a wide variety of habitats, typically close to permanent water bodies
including grassland, scrub, forests, mangroves, swamps, lakes and rivers.
Classification of Species
No subspecies of this African
monitor has yet been described by the biologists.
The Nile monitors have a reputation for being ill-tempered
and aggressive. They are primarily solitary creatures, roaming about and
foraging for food alone, except during mating. At times, when they fall prey to
larger animals like large snakes, they do
not take time climbing up the nearest tree, using their strong, muscular legs.
These monitors largely aquatic, and both great climbers and
swimmers, and when they find a danger lurking at the bottom of a tree they are
in, they would jump down from the branch into the safety of a river, stream, or
similar water bodies.
Nile monitors are highly carnivorous creatures, and wouldn’t
hesitate eating up just any animal it believes consumable.
They usually spend the early mornings, especially during
winter, basking in the sun on the sandy banks or rocky surfaces by the river or
stream, and have been seen cooling themselves in the waters particularly in the
summer months. Nile monitors move on land, walking with wiggly gaits, often
climbing up tall trees to feed, bask, or sleep.
Nile monitors prey on almost all kinds of mammals, amphibians,
fish, birds, reptiles, and eggs that they find in or around their habitat.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The breeding season of these reptiles is during the rains. After a successful mating session, the female Nile monitor lays up to 60 eggs. For this, they prefer termite burrows or mounds.
Interestingly, it takes a considerably long time for the
eggs to hatch. Under preferable temperature and optimum humidity, the Nile
monitor eggs are incubated for around six
to nine months before the young offspring hatch out.
The baby Nile monitor hatchlings are brightly colored and spend the prime of their lives
feasting upon snails, insects, spiders, and different other small animals. The
juveniles attain the age of sexual maturity when they are around three to four
semi-aquatic creatures have the respiratory adaptation of spending up to
one hour submerged under water.
Owing to its powerful leg muscles, the reptile is very fast
for its size.
Its strong, well-muscled tail
is used both as a propeller while swimming, as also for defense purposes,
if threatened or attacked, using it as a lash.
Nile monitors are almost the apex predators within their
range, except for a few large creatures like the Nile crocodile, and larger
snakes like hamadryads.
The skin of the Nile
monitor has been used for various
purposes – as dietary protein, in ceremonies and medicine, as also for leather
goods, for many centuries.
At almost 60 eggs per
clutch, these big size monitor has the largest clutch size of any lizard.
More than one million
whole skins of the Nile monitor are required each year in the annual leather
trade, especially in Indonesia.
Nile monitor is the second
largest reptile in the Nile River, next only to the Nile crocodile.
In the leather trade, the
skin of the medium-sized specimens is
valued, since the skins of the larger Nile monitors are too tough and difficult