Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus Panoptes)

Reptile

The Yellow-spotted Monitor is a monitor lizard found in Arnhem Land, The Cape York Peninsula and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. One of northern Australia’s biggest predators, it prefers to live in tropical to semi-arid woodlands, particularly around floodplains or other permanent sources of water. It is a terrestrial lizard, meaning it spends most of its time on the ground.

Most Yellow-spotted Monitors are yellow with a background of brown or dark tan. They have a banded yellowish tail tip. Their size differs greatly depending on their sex: the female reaches an average total length of 90cm, while the male can be 120-140cm long.

The Yellow-spotted Monitor is an avid digger, and will either dig a burrow itself or take over an existing burrow, where they will spend most of their time, especially in the late dry season when little food is available. They forage on land, in water and in trees for their meals.

The prey of the Yellow-spotted Monitor consists of all kinds of foods, including fish, crabs, small birds, rodents, insects and even other smaller monitors that share its habitat, including the dwarf monitor and rock monitor. They also dig up and eat the eggs of turtles and crocodiles. The Yellow-spotted Monitor has an acute sense of smell and a forked tongue, and, like snakes, can often be spotted flicking their tongues in search of a meal.

One unique characteristic of the Yellow-spotted Monitor is the way it stands up on its hind legs when threatened or to get a better look at its environment, supporting itself with its tail. Despite their large size, these lizards are quite fast and will run to the nearest burrow or tree when chased.

It is believed that up to 90% of the Yellow-spotted Monitor population in the Top End has been decimated by the invasive Cane Toad (Rhinella marina), as biting a toad is enough to kill an adult. Breeding programs with captive lizards have been established to try to save this native lizard and return them to their native territory.

The female Yellow-spotted Monitor lays up to thirteen eggs in the wet season, which take more than seven months to hatch. In the past, the Yellow-spotted Monitor was one of the favorite foods of northern Australian Aboriginal tribes.

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