Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)


Family: Varanidae.

Length: 120-220cm.

Description: The lizard is black and yellow with an elongated head and a flat tail to aid in swimming. Juveniles are usually more vividly coloured than adults.

Distribution: The species is present in the eastern part of Southern Africa but it is also present along the Orange river all the way to the Atlantic ocean. The species reaches is southern-most  limit at Seekoei river, Eastern Cape and is thus not present in the Western Cape.

Habitat: Closely associated with water sources such as dams, pans and rivers where it can be found from 0-1600m above sea level.

Reproduction: Oviparous, a female can lay up to 60 eggs. females lay their eggs in live termite mounds and juveniles emerge from the termite mound 4-6 months later.

Diet:  Freshwater Crabs and  mussels, frogs, fish, birds and their eggs. Nile monitors are also known to eat the eggs of terrapins, sea turtles and crocodiles. Juveniles tend to stick to reed beds in shallow water where they hunt frogs and insects

Predators: Crocodiles and southern African pythons are among the main predators of the nile monitor.

Conservation concern: Common and widespread, no concern

Threat to humans: Non-venomous, but an adult may bite or thrash their powerful tail if they feel threatened.

Interesting facts: Africa’s largest lizard.



Bates, M.F., Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M., Burger, M., Marais, J., Alexander, G.J. & de Villiers, M.S. (eds). 2014. (CD set). Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

Branch, B. 1994. Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK.

Branch, B. 2016. Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.

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