Nature Mikey

Nature Mikey

Monday, April 4, 2011

Species of the Day: Argus Monitor

Scientific Name: Varanus panoptes hornii
Family: Varanidae
Adult Size: 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet long with some rare instances of individuals growing to 6 feet in length
Range: Northern Australia
Habitat: Semid-arid to arid environments, also at home in moist forests

     Argus monitors are large, diurnal lizards from Northern Australia. These lizards are well-muscled and very attractive with their black and white/yellow patterned skin. Often seen basking near road ways or rapidly running across them, they are easily the Velociraptors of the monitor world for their surprising speed when chasing down prey and their habit of standing up on their back legs to survey their surroundings. In the wild, insects, fish, amphibians, snakes, birds or anything else it could overpower are on the menu for this powerful lizard. However, captive Argus monitors can easily adapt to pre-killed prey. Because of their large size, they can be difficult to handle and the sharp claws of this monitor are nothing to be taken lightly as they squirm if they are not properly supported. It's not advisable to keep Argus monitors as completely free-range pets as they are very fast and have a tendency to bolt if alarmed and could escape.
    Argus monitors just love to eat! For proper growth and bone health, babies should be free-fed as many appropriately-sized insects as they will eat, along with about an ounce of ground turkey or one or two pinky mice. You can alternate the days they receive these treats to keep variety in their diets. After the first six months of life you should start rationing out food items as obesity is very common among captive monitors. At the sixth month mark, they will start refusing insect prey for a steady diet of rodents, eggs or baby chicks given every other day, again alternating for a healthy variety. Be prepared though, as an adult Argus monitor can easily consume up to $100 in food every month.
    Argus monitors require a huge amount of space, with the best type of caging being a converted small bedroom or walk-in closet. An appropriately sized enclosure for an adult Argus monitor should be 8 feet in length, 4 feet wide and 4 feet high. Because of their fast growth rates, it is advised to simply start with an adult sized cage for them to grow into instead of constantly having to buy new cages every month. A good place to bask is definitely required for these cold-blooded lizards, and they like it very hot. They are from Australia after all and basking temperatures of up to 120 degrees F are the best for them. Fresh water in the form of being in a large soaking tub that allows for them to completely submerge their bodies should be provided at all times, along with a good place to shelter and hide to regulate their body temperatures when not basking. Now, Argus monitors love to dig, so a substrate mix of sand, untreated mulch and untreated potting soil kept slightly moist should be used. The depth of substrate should be 4 to 6 inches deep for babies, 8 to 12 inches deep for juveniles and at least 25 inches deep for adults to allow for digging, which can serve as good exercise for them. Although it has not been proven that monitors need UV lighting, it never hurts to keep one in the enclosure as long as it's on a 12 hour timer.

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