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Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus)

Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus), Lake Baringo, Kenya.

With an almost insatiable appetite, the Nile monitor is renowned for eating just about anything it can overpower or find as carrion. Consequently, its diet includes everything from arthropods, amphibians and fish, to birds, small mammals and other reptiles. Hunting strategies vary, but it is rare for the Nile monitor to shy away from a challenge, and it will even team up with other individuals to steal eggs from larger predators such as Nile crocodiles. While one monitor provokes a female crocodile away from a nesting site, another will dig up the unguarded eggs.

Propelled by its powerful tail, the Nile monitor is an excellent swimmer and can reportedly spend up to one hour submerged. Although largely aquatic, the mornings are often spent basking in the sun on rocky outcrops or sandy banks. On land, it walks with a sinuous swagger and will sometimes climb trees to bask, feed or sleep. However, this species is more vulnerable on land and if threatened will normally do its best to avoid injury and will flee to the safety of deep water. When escape is not an easy option, it will boldly defend itself, using its hefty tail, sharp teeth and powerful claws to injure or frighten away the aggressor.

Following mating, which takes place at the end of the rainy season, the female lays up to 60 eggs (the largest clutch size of any lizard) in termite mounds or burrows. Under fairly constant temperature and humidity, the unattended eggs are incubated over a period of six to nine months before hatching. The brightly coloured hatchlings survive on a diet comprised of insects, spiders, snails and other small animals, and reach maturity after three to four years.

Range and Habitat Edit

The distribution of the Nile monitor extends through much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal across to Somalia and down to northeast South Africa. It also occurs along the Nile up into southern Egypt. Given its colossal range, it is no surprise that the Nile monitor occurs in a wide variety of habitats, wherever there are permanent bodies of water. Although this excludes deserts, this species has been found in most other habitats including grassland, scrub, forests, mangroves, swamps, lakes and rivers.

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