Malayan Water Monitor

Malayan Water Monitor

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Malayan water monitor; Asian monitor; two-banded monitor
Genus Species
Varanus (monitor lizard) salvator

Fast Facts

Large lizard with black temporal band edged with yellow that extends back from each eye; neck is very long with an elongated snout; tail is flat with a dorsal ridge; dark brown or blackish, with yellow spots on the underpart; yellow markings on the species tend to diminish as the individual becomes older
Up to 3 m (10 ft)
Up to 25 kg (50-75 lbs.)
Carrion, small reptiles and mammals, bird eggs, insects
5-6 months
Clutch Size: 20-50 eggs
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 2 years
Life Span
12-20 years
Southern Asia, from Bengal in the west to the Philippines and the Indo-Australian islands
Semi-aquatic and has a wide range of habitats; river banks and swamps
Global: No data
IUCN: No data
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Monitors have forked tongues, making them the only reptiles other than snakes to possess this characteristic. Like snakes, this tongue shape allows for better accuracy in locating a prey's scent.
  2. Monitors practice 'open pursuit' hunting instead of stalking and ambushing. They are very fast despite their massive size because of their powerful leg muscles. When escaping predators, usually large snakes, water monitors will climb a tree using their powerful legs. If this technique doesn't work, they will jump from the branch into the safety of a stream or river.
  3. Monitors are known to use their tail (which may be twice as long as its body) as a rudder (used to steer when swimming), for grasping, and as a weapon.
  4. Monitors swallow their food whole or in large pieces; they are able to dislocate their thyroid bone in order to enlarge their throat.
  5. Males are extremely territorial. Upon encountering another male they will first take a threatening posture then begin fighting viciously, often leaving severe bite wounds.
  6. These monitors build their burrows along riverbanks and will take advantage of termite mounds as well as rotting logs or stumps to lay their eggs.
  7. Malaysian water monitors can remain under water for up to 30 minutes - which comes in handy when hunting aquatic prey.
  8. These water monitors are comfortable in both fresh and saltwater and have been spotted swimming far out in the ocean.

Ecology and Conservation

Monitors fill an important niche in their native regions. They are one of the only large land mammal carnivores. Of the 31 species of monitors found throughout the world, 24 of them occur in areas without terrestrial carnivorous mammals.

These reptiles are also being negatively affected by destruction of their natural habitat and to a lesser degree, their role in the pet trade. Skins of these lizards are used for dietary protein, religious ceremonies, medicine, and mostly leather goods. More than one million skins are traded each year, mostly in Indonesia. Monitors that are medium-sized individual are preferred because the skin of large animals is too tough and thick to shape.


Halliday, Tim R., and Adler, Kraig. The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Equinox Books, 1986.

Halliday, Tim R., and Adler, Kraig. The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Equinox Books, 1986.

Rogner, Manfred. Lizards. Vol. 2. Malabar, Florida: Krieger Publishing Co., 1994

Steel, Rodney. Living Dragons. Ralph Curtis Books, London. 1996.$narrative.html