White-throated Monitor

Varanus albigularis

Order: Squamata


Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, white-throated monitors largely eat invertebrates (especially snails, beetles, orthopterans, millipedes, and scorpions). Less frequently, they will eat lizards, snakes (including puff adders and spitting cobras), frogs, toads, tortoises, birds, eggs, mammals (including hedgehogs), and carrion.
  • In captivity, they are fed mice, mealworms, crickets, and cockroaches.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling


Potential Messaging

  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters. http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/Save-Wildlife/Images/PetWalletBro2012.aspxhttp://pin.primate.wisc.edu/aboutp/pets/index.html
  • Many regions of Africa including the Congoand the island of Madagascar are extensively mined for coltan and other minerals that go into cell phones, tablets, and computers. Natural habitat, frequently in areas that are legally protected, is lost for wildlife, trees and topsoil scraped away. In addition, toxins from discarded electronics leach out of local landfills and contaminate waterways here at home. Please ask guests to think twice before replacing their electronic devices and to recycle their old ones when they do. http://www.houstonzoo.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Why-should-I-recycle-my-cell-phone.pdf

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

White-throated monitors inhabit the dry steppe and savanna regions across much of southern and eastern sub-Saharan Africa.

Physical Description

These monitors are large, heavy-bodied lizards, dark gray in color with throat markings that can turn black when they are excited. They have large claws for digging burrows and catching prey, and long, whipping tail. They can grow to 4 to 6 feet in length. Males are longer and heavier than females.

Life Cycle

During the cool, dry season (from May to August), the male will tour his home range and visit the locations of reproductive females. During this period, the females will remain stationary, preferring to remain upon elevated sites, such as trees and rocks. Mating and feeding doesn’t seem to occur during this tour. However, the male notes the locations of the fertile females, and he will return to mate with them at their optimum time.
During courtship, the male will wipe his mouth on elevated objects immediately adjacent to the female, and display vent dragging. He will make exaggerated, spasmodic movements as he approaches the female. Her response is to flatten her body and to press her head down to the ground. Before actual contact, the male will flick his tongue around the female’s mouth, hind legs, and the base of her tail. The female will remain passive during both courtship and mating; there is no aggression between the sexes. Any intruding males will be chased away by the resident male. Both sexes will rate with multiple partners. Researchers did not observed any ritualistic combat between males.
After mating, the female will lay her eggs in a nest in an abandoned ground squirrel burrow. She will only lay one clutch each year, but each clutch could hold as many as 50 eggs. (In captivity, females will lay multiple clutches per year.) The eggs are covered and left to hatch. Usually, egg laying is about two months prior to significant rainfall. Hatchlings will emerge throughout the rainy season, and feed primarily on invertebrates.
For the first three months of life, hatchlings will triple in mass and double in body length. Less than half of hatchlings will survive their first year. White-throated monitors achieve sexual maturity at 3 to 5 years of age.
Life expectancy for adults is about 15 years.


White-throated monitors are solitary animals. They generally ignore each other until the mating season. They are diurnal.
When threatened, the monitor will assume an intimidating posture by arching its neck, puffing out its throat, and hissing loudly. If that doesn’t work, it will last out with its tail and bite anything within reach.

Threats and Conservation Status

Common predators include honey badgers, birds of prey, and most large carnivores. This species is classified as threatened by CITES under Appendix II. The greatest threat is habitat destruction and fragmentation. Lesser threats are hunting for its hide, its meat, and for use by traditional peoples for alleged medical properties.
This species, as well as all monitors, are sold worldwide as part of the exotic pet trade.

Did you know…

  • Unlike many other groups of lizards, monitor lizards are known for their higher metabolism and activity levels which has been attributed to their hunting habits.
  • Monitor lizards are known for their intelligence and have been documented to be able to count up to the number 6.
  • A subgroup, called the black-throated monitor, is sometimes considered a full subspecies: Varanus albigularis albigularis. The taxonomy of this species is disputed.
  • The main competitor of this species is the black-backed jackal, as both have similar diets.


Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.



Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters