A starting point for the care of Savannah Monitors
One of the biggest misconceptions about Savannah Monitors is that they are desert dwelling animals; >This is false information Watch Video - Savanna Biome
Virtually all of the Savannah Monitors captured for the worldwide pet trade are "harvested" from Ghana Africa, a coastal grassland, that has rich grassy vegetation and relatively high humidity for much of the year. When we fail to provide the required humidity in captivity, these majestic animals perish from various states of dehydration. What many keepers fail to realize is that these animals spend much of their time down inside Burrows (or tunnels) under the ground to conserve moisture and avoid predators. These burrows are very important to the overall health of your lizard.
Savannah Monitors are very intelligent animals, they require stimulation, locked inside four walls with nothing to do is comparable to solitary confinement in prison, They NEED space, they NEED dirt to dig burrows in. Like a child in a sandbox, nothing else you can do for your animal is better than to give it plenty of sandy soil mix to tunnel in and providing enrichment to keep the animal's
mind keen. Monitors in captivity can become bored. (wouldn't you be in a box?)
If you wish to keep your Savannah Monitor healthy and alive for more than a year or two, you simply must provide a large sealed enclosure with a solid 24 inches of soil that will hold a burrow without collapsing on the animal while it spends most of it's time in there. The preferred substrate of many advanced keepers is a mixture of soil and sand. (See Bio Active soil page)
Temperatures and Humidity
To properly support your Savannah Monitor, a wide range of options is usually deemed the best way to raise a healthy animal, Quite honestly you simply cannot provide this with any size "fish tank"! Click here to see why this is the single most important factor of proper care.
The humidity inside your enclosure should range from very low (directly under the basking lamps) to very high (nearly 100% down in the burrows and about 60% overall humidity on the cooler end of the cage.
A high quality digital hygrometer is mandatory for monitoring the environment inside your enclosure. Guessing the humidity will not work.
Failure to provide sufficient basking temperatures and correct humidity, as well as supported burrowing, is stressful the lizards internal organs and leads to dehydration and gout.
It has been concluded that chronic exposure to insufficient basking temeratures prohibits proper renal tubule function leading to kidney damage and failure over time. Source: Robert W. Mendyk, Zoo Biology 00: 1-11 (2012)
As a general rule of thumb, basking spots should be a minimum of 130 - 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Recently I documented my lizards baskig at almost 180 degrees. View Photo (click).
Allowing your captive Monitor Lizard to roam about the house or keeping it in a room is not a suitable substitute for a proper enclosure.
Lighting your enclosure.
For optimal basking, without risk of burns, it is common practice to use a cluster of three smaller 45 to 50 watt halogen flood lights rather than one big light. Experienced keepers use common floodlight bulbs sold at most retailers / hardware stores for use in outdoor security lights. They cost a lot less than reptile bulbs sold at pet shops, and work just as well.
Optimal basking temperatures should be right around 130-155 degrees (F) and be broad enough to cover most of the lizards body while sprawled out under the lamps. Warning! the use of a single high wattage lamp will burn your lizard and dry out the air in your cage.
It is also of no harm and thought to benefit the lizard if there is at least one UVB lamp in use to enhance the simulation of sunlight.
Savannah Monitors are primarily insectivores in the wild, there is however, some controversy about feeding rodents in captivity. This is a long winded and foolish argument.
A properly supported Monitor can handle mice and rats in their diet without any problems. However, the vast majority of keepers do not provide the correct housing for their captive lizards and the resulting health issues are often blamed on the rodent diet, when in fact improper husbandry that brought on the failure in the animal's health. Be sure to read the dehydration and gout page carefully, or your lizard will not live to be very old.
A proper Savannah Monitor diet would consist of Roaches, Crickets, Night Crawlers (Large earth worms) Mice, Rats, Snails, Garden slugs, Superworms and Locusts (where available) and certified chemical free organic whole Shrimp, Crabs, Crayfish & Chicks.
Some of the worst things people could ever feed their captive Savannah Monitors...
- Chicken parts, ground Turkey, animal parts.(Lacking essential minerals)
- Boiled or scrambled eggs & cooked foods.(Cooking destroys nutrients)
Dog food, Cat food, Canned anything! Why? Read this link
The above items are not nutritionally complete, canned goods are almost all treated with chemicals, therefore the above items should be avoided.
Summary of a Properly supported Savannah Monitor
- Minimum cage size 8 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet or bigger
- Deep sandy soil floor to support digging burrows
- Hot basking area of 130 degrees (F) or HOTTER
- 60% average humidity or higher
- large water dish (Changed daily or more)
- several hiding areas located throughout the cage.
- 6500K and supplimental UV lighting, it should be well lighted during the daytime cycle to simulate a sunny afternoon in Africa.