White-throated monitor (Varanus albigularis)

White-throated monitor basking
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White-throated monitor fact file

White-throated monitor description

GenusVaranus (1)

The white throated-monitor is one of almost 60 species of powerfully built lizards belonging to the genus Varanus. All monitor lizards are recognised for their elongate bodies, strong limbs, muscular tails and robust claws (2). The body pattern of the white throated monitor comprises dark rosettes with a cream coloured centre that gradually merge with age to give the impression of bands around the ribcage. While the head is solid grey or brown above, the throat is much lighter, hence this species’ common name (3). The snout of this monitor lizard is also distinctively blunt and bulbous, particularly in adults (3) (4). Until 1989 the white-throated monitor and the savanna monitor (Varanus exanthematicus) were considered to be the same species. Following their separation, three geographically separated subspecies of the white-throated monitor have been described: Varanus albigularis albigularis; V. a. angolensis: and V. a. microstictus (3).

Also known as
Rock monitor, southern savanna monitor, white-throated monitor lizard.
Monitor exanthematicus capensis, Tupinambis albigularis, Varanus exanthematicus albigularis, Varanus gilli.

White-throated monitor biology

Although primarily a terrestrial species, the white throated monitor will climb trees to hunt for prey, to reproduce, and to avoid predators (3). If confronted on the ground by a predator, such as a honey badger, it will puff up its throat and body, lash out with its tail, and bite violently (3) (5). During the summer it is active throughout the day, except during midday in regions where temperatures are extremely high (3). It hunts for a wide range of prey and will eat just about anything it can subdue, from snakes, birds and eggs, to snails, millipedes and grasshoppers (3) (5). Although the white-throated monitor remains alert during the winter months, it is far less active and generally remains in its overnight refuge, which usually takes the form of an earth burrow or hollow tree trunk (3).

During the breeding season, receptive females almost always climb into trees. Once a male locates a female, the pair will mate for one to two days before the male goes in search of another female (3). Each year, a female may lay two clutches of up to 50 eggs (5).


White-throated monitor range

The white throated-monitor has a wide distribution through south-western, south-central, and eastern Africa (3).


White-throated monitor habitat

Found in grassland, scrub and woodland habitats (3).


White-throated monitor status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).


White-throated monitor threats

Although the white-throated monitor is widespread and common, it is occasionally targeted by humans for food (5), and is probably affected by habitat loss and fragmentation.


White-throated monitor conservation

There are no specific conservation measures in place for the white-throated monitor but it is listed on Appendix II of CITES, which makes it an offence to trade this species without a permit (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on reptile conservation see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


  1. CITES (January, 2009)
  2. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Pianka, E.R. and King, D.R. (2004) Varanoid lizards of the world. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana.
  4. Carruthers, V. (2005) The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animals and Plants of the Region. Struik, Cape Town.
  5. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Image credit

White-throated monitor basking  
White-throated monitor basking

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