How to Take Care of A Savannah Monitor

The Savannah Monitor, also referred to as Bosc’s Monitor and Varanus exanthematicus, is a large monitor species known for its smart and strong abilities. Used to be hunted for its leather, meat, and trade, Savannah Monitors are becoming a popular pet of choice among hobbyists. This monitor species is endemic to the savannahs of eastern and southern Africa. In the pet trade, Savannah Monitors are either captive-raised or wild-caught. Nevertheless, this reptile may be a great addition to your pet collection.

Read further to know more about the Savannah Monitor!


Its scientific name “exanthematicus” was derived from the Greek term exanthem, meaning the skin’s blister. This term can be correlated with the description of French botanist Louis Augustin Guillaume Bosc, who described this species as Lacerta exanthematica relating to the large oval scales at the back of the Savannah Monitor’s neck.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorized this species as Least Concern due to their extensive range. An average of 30,570 individuals were imported into the US every year from 2000 to 2009. The total imports from 2000 to 2010 was 325,480 animals.

The Savannah Monitor has five subspecies, that is why there is varying information regarding the measurements.

Characteristics of a Savannah Monitor

Average life span: 5 to 10 years

Average length: 2.5 to 6 feet long

The Savannah Monitor possesses a thick and stocky body. It has a short tail, short neck, and a wide head. It has small sub-equal scales that cover its cranial region. Its color varies from gray to brown, which varies according to the environment it lives in. It possesses powerful limbs for digging and strong jaws, but blunt teeth.

When it comes to behavior, Savannah Monitors are very territorial lizards that will protect their territories aggressively. If two male monitors come across each other, they will threaten each other. If threatens won’t work, they will wrestle and bite each other.

They are active during the day, seeking shelter in burrows during the hottest hours of the day. These lizards use their tongue to sense their environment, flicking it 20 to 40 times every two minutes.

As a captive, they are one of the most docile monitor species. They can tolerate handling, but they are not meant for amateur reptile owners. They come with strict handling requirements that only intermediate to pro hobbyists can fulfill.

Caring for a Savannah Monitor

A Savannah Monitor spends most of its time basking in the sun and digging the soil, so it is crucial to create an environment wherein your pet can do these activities. Like all monitor species, if your pet is not captive-bred nor handled often, it can be aggressive towards humans. Beware of its sharp teeth, strong claws, and heavy tail.

Monitor lizards are notorious for being escape artists. Therefore, make sure that you provide an enclosure that has a secure lock. A juvenile Savannah Monitor can thrive in a 55-gallon aquarium, but they grow quickly. That’s why it’s recommended to have an adult set up right away. An adult Savannah Monitor requires an 8-feet long by 4-feet wide cage, and at least 3 feet high.

Decorate the enclosure with branches and other accessories your pet can climb on. It can be destructive, so provide rocks and hides. Make room for a basking spot and a large water dish wherein the Savannah monitor can take a bath.

Practice spot cleaning the enclosure everyday and thoroughly clean the enclosure every two weeks. You have to secure another safe place to hold your lizard while cleaning the enclosure.

When it comes to heat, the Savannah Monitor requires an ambient temperature between 95 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A high-percentage UVB bulb should be on for 10 to 12-hour cycle daily. Make sure to replace the bulb every six months so it won’t burn out.

The Savannah Monitor is a digger, so your pet will appreciate substrate so it can burrow properly. Make sure to choose a bedding that will not clog your pet’s digestive tract.

As a carnivore, Savannah Monitors are opportunistic eaters that are prone to obesity. Feed juveniles thrice a week and adults only once a week. Feed them with insects such as roaches, crickets, and earthworms. These are gut-loaded insects that provide nutrients. Change the water daily with filtered water.