How to Care for Your Savannah Monitor
(photo credit Wildlife Facts)
Savannah Monitors (Varanus exanthematicus) are very large (2.5-3.5 feet), diurnal, terrestrial reptiles native to the coastal savannah grasslands of Central Africa. Their habitat is generally considered to range from arid to humid, and they divide their time between basking and hiding in more humid burrows which they construct. Savannah Monitors come in a variety of colors depending on locale of origin, including gray, tan and olive green. Savannah Monitors are among the more intelligent reptiles, and require appropriate stimulation in their environment to insure interest and engagement. Due to their size and wide range of habitat needs they should be considered to be advanced level pets.
Adult Savannah Monitors require large enclosures; most keepers recommend an enclosure size of 8’x4’x4’high. The enclosure should be constructed of glass or plexiglass to maintain humidity. It should include a 24” deep substrate to allow the Savannah Monitor to construct underground burrows. Substrate should consist of a mulch or soil-sand mix that can sustain burrows without collapsing. Additional cage items include a large, stable water bowl, stable hiding spots and some pieces of wood or branches that can hold a monitor’s weight below the basking area. The enclosure needs to have a range of humidities: humidity will be low under the basking lights, near 100% underground in the burrows, and 60% throughout the remainder of the enclosure.
Heating and Lighting
Savannah Monitors require a basking area whose temperatures can reach 110-120 degrees F or higher on the floor. Since the Savannah Monitor is a large reptile, a single light is often not enough to heat its whole body. Frequently a cluster of 3 floodlights will be used, one of which can be a full spectrum light to provide the Monitor with UV. Alternatively, the UVB light can be a full-spectrum 10.0 florescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure. The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels.The air temperature in the remainder of the enclosure should be 75-80 during the day, with up to a 10 degree temperature drop allowable at night.
Food and Supplementation
Savannah Monitors are primarily insectivorous (insect eating). The majority of their diet should consist of large crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, and Dubia and other roaches. Insects should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3. Monitors also benefit from a limited amount of fresh or frozen whole prey items including rodents, fish, shrimp, crayfish, crabs, and chicks and eat fruit, vegetables and live prey. Cooked, canned or processed food and meat parts (such as ground turkey or steak) are considered to be incomplete nutrition and are discouraged. Although it may seem counterintuitive, these large reptiles will be healthier when fed more insects than the larger prey items described above.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to Savannah Monitors, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.