Crocodile monitors are large, arboreal (or tree-dwelling) lizards from southeast Asia. They have blackish-green bodies with differing patterns of bright yellow spots and stripes. Their coloration tends to vary by region. These monitors can use their long, powerful tails like a whip for defense. They also use their flat, very sharp, serrated teeth for defense and to capture prey.
Adult males have larger, broader heads than females and have faint hemipenal bulges (the male lizard's reproductive organ), but it can be difficult to tell a male monitor from a female monitor using only visual characteristics. Instead, scientists examine hormones in the blood. A male crocodile monitor's testosterone level is 10 times that of a female's.
Not much is known about a crocodile monitor's diet in the wild, but researchers believe they eat birds, mammals and fish. They may also occasionally eat eggs, small reptiles and carrion.
At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the crocodile monitor eats chicks, quail, mice and small rats.
Crocodile monitors are very elusive, so not much is known about their reproduction. Scientists are not even sure where the female monitor makes her nest. All current reproductive information comes from monitors in human care. Four to six weeks after mating, the female lays a clutch of four to 12 eggs. A female can lay clutches up to three times per year. Each time, the eggs incubate for five to eight months.
Hatchlings do not emerge simultaneously, and the time between the emergence of the first and last hatchling ranges from two to four weeks. Crocodile monitor hatchlings average 14 to 16 inches (35.5 to 40.6 centimeters) long and grow 2 inches (5 centimeters) per month for the first few years of life.
Crocodile monitors are listed as a species of least concern on International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, as of a July 2014 assessment. This species is also listed on CITES Appendix II — which means that it is not threatened with extinction but may be in the future if trade is not controlled — but does not have protected status in New Guinea. This species is difficult to assess, and scientists believe its population is in decline.
The main threat facing crocodile monitors is loss of habitat resulting from deforestation from logging and the conversion of land for agriculture. This is of particular concern because crocodile monitors avoid interactions with humans. These lizards are also hunted for their skin and meat, which is in high demand within global and local markets. Crocodile monitors have recently entered the pet trade, and it is unclear whether this will have a significat impact on their numbers in the wild.
- Reduce, reuse and recycle — in that order! Cut back on single-use goods, and find creative ways to reuse products at the end of their life cycle. Choose recycling over trash when possible.
- Practice ecotourism by being an advocate for the environment when you’re on vacation. During your travels, support, visit or volunteer with organizations that protect wildlife. Shop smart too! Avoid buying products made from animals, which could support poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
- Share the story of this animal with others. Simply raising awareness about this species can contribute to its overall protection.