Friday, July 4, 2014

Nile Monitor

Nile monitors generally grow to about four or five feet in length, but large specimens can get as large as eight feet long.  They generally weigh about 15 to 30 pounds, but again, large specimens can weigh as much as 44 pounds. They have muscular bodies, strong legs and powerful jaws. Young monitors have very sharp teeth, but the teeth become dull and blunt as they get older. They also have very sharp claws for climbing, digging or tearing at prey. They are grayish/brown with greenish/yellow barring on the tail and greenish/yellow rosette-like spots on their backs with a blackish spot in the middle. Their throats and undersides are ochre/yellow with faint barring on their throats. They are good swimmers, using their tail instead of their feet, and can stay under water as long as 20 minutes. The are also good climbers. They feed on fish, frogs, young crocodiles, snakes, birds, small mammals, large insects and carrion. They are found in central and southern Africa, except for parts of southwestern Africa, as well as central Egypt along the Nile River. 

When we were checking into our room at the Sarova Shaba Lodge in Shaba NR, very near to the fenced off Ewaso Ngiro River, a small Nile monitor, about two feet in length, glided slowly from the grass near our door down a side walk toward the river. I followed it, camera in-hand, hoping both for pictures and the possibility of catching it, although I wasn't sure how mean they are and how much of a tendency they have to bite. I did not have the opportunity to try and catch it, I couldn't get close enough, and it disappeared into bushes near the fence by the river. Unfortunately, my pictures did not turn out well. 

The people in our group in the other Land Cruiser came across a much larger Nile monitor at the edge of the Ewaso Ngiro River later that day.
Nile monitor near the Ewaso Ngiro River in Buffalo Springs NR. Photo by Michael Lewin.
Several days later, in Serengeti NP, we were crossing a small river and noticed a very large monitor in the river bed eating some carrion. I took lots of pictures and they were all blurry. Fortunately Mark Edwards got some that turned out. I really wanted to get out of the Land Cruiser and go closer to investigate, but that is a big no-no. 
Nile monitor in Serengeti NP eating carrion. Photos by Mark Edwards.
Big, thick lizard. 
The next day the other Land Cruiser saw a pair of mating Nile monitors just off the side of the road as we were leaving the Serengeti for Ngorongoro Crater. 
Mating Nile monitors. Photo by Michael Lewin.
These lizards were one of the highlights for me. Very large, very impressive. 


  1. Remember the giant plastic lizards our boys had? Is this what they were?

  2. How fun! I can almost see the look in your eyes. I remember you bringing back the large lizards from Lake Powel when you were a teenager.