Varanus niloticus Nile Monitor
Also known as:
Water Monitor
Queen Elizabeth National Park, UgandaJuly 5, 2000
Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)
This marvellous monitor was draped over some sort of nest high up in an acacia tree. I suspect it had recently devoured the contents of the nest and was taking a hard-earned rest. Tragically, I didn't steady my camera well for the 400mm hand-held shots on slow film, with the massively fuzzy results displayed here. I shoulda known better. (This picture is cropped to about 1/4 the content of the full frame.)

I waffled on identifying this as either Varanus albigularis or Varanus niloticus. Originally I listed it here as more likely to be V. albigularis, but several correspondents have now written to explain why they believe it is V. niloticus. The evidence is fairly overwhelming, so I've reclassified this picture.

Many thanks to the correspondents who took the time to correct my misidentification, including Paul Huang, David Kirshner, Jean-Michel Le Poder, Heather Cullen, Marc Abuys, and one or two others who didn't supply their names.

Mara River Camp, KenyaJuly 18, 2000
Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)
The Nile Monitor is the largest lizard in Africa. I used to claim here that it was the second-largest reptile in Africa, after the Nile Crocodile, a claim I picked up from some forgotten source. But reader Paul Moler pointed out that there are at least 5 other African reptiles that are heavier, and at least 2 or 3 that are longer. It just goes to show, don't believe everything you read on the Internet.

Paul's list of heavier reptiles includes:

  1. Nile crocodile
  2. Narrow-snouted crocodile
  3. African spur-thighed tortoise
  4. African rock python
  5. African dwarf crocodile
Danny Greer added to the list of potentially heavier African reptiles Leopard Tortoises (adults up to 100 pounds) and Nile Soft-shelled Turtles (adults well over 100 pounds).

This particular Nile Monitor, patrolling the far bank of the Mara river where it passed by our camp, is still a youngster, perhaps only about 4 feet long. They hang out near water most of the time, searching for frogs, toads, crocodile eggs, and other succulent morsels.

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