Sand Monitor

(Varanus gouldii)




Facts about this animal

With a total length up to 150 cm, the sand monitor ist he second largest monitor species in Australia. The lizard is greenish-gray with uniform ringed small yellow spots all over its body. The spots are faint towards the neck but are more prominent on the tail and lower torso. On the body they are arrenged in a way to form irregular narrow bands or eye-like patterns. The legs are usually covered with small whitish or yellowish spots. The snake-like head is flat with a yellow pattern on the sides. The tail is flattened, light brown to black with some brighter rings. The last 7 – 15 cm of the tail are white, cream coloured or yellow.The bottom of the tail is yellowish often with dark spots. The legs are strong. V. gouldii is a diurnal species, where males have larger territories and are more active than females. They stay often in self-made or abandoned burrows (warrens of rabbits). The entrance of the burrow is often beneath a flat rock, a small shrub, or a fallen log. The burrows are important for providing protection from predators and weather. Sand monitors feed predominantly on small reptiles and reptile eggs but also on mammals, small birds and their eggs, insects and even carrion. They capture most of their prey by digging; they indeed appear to have a very keen sense of olfaction, walking with their snout held close to the ground while hunting for food and using their long, forked and very snake-like tongues extensively, meaning that the tongue flickers in and out transferring scents to the Jacobson’s organs. This way they can rapidly locate hidden prey, even if it is underground. Geckos are important prey (dug up in their diurnal retreats), but many diurnal species of lizards are also eaten including other Varanus, like brevicauda, caudolineatus and gilleni. They use their sharp claws as well as their snout to dig out the prey. The mating season is in the summer months (November and December), The male locates the burrow of a female and builds a burrow of his own a few meters away. Over several days the male and female spend an increasing amount of time together. Eventually, they begin to copulate. They continue to mate over and over again for several days. During this period of intense breeding activity, the pair may share the same burrow. After some time the intensity of copulations declines and the animals separate and forage again independently. When it is time to lay the eggs, the female locates an active termite mound. She digs a tunnel towards the center of the mound 50 to 60 cm deep and at its end a large cavity. Then she lays an average of 6,2 eggs into the tunnel. Afterwards she refills the tunnel, and the termites reconstruct the mound around the eggs. The termites regulate the temperature and humidity, so this is an excellent place for development of the eggs. In this monotor species delayed fertilization has been recorded. The young hatch during December, January, and February and measure from 100 mm to 118 mm in snout-vent length. Among other enemies they are threatened by their elder conspecifics and often take flight on trees.

Did you know?
Monitors are different from other lizards by their skulls which are bony and completely closed while the other lizards have open parts in their skulls.


Name (Scientific) Varanus gouldii
Name (English) Sand Monitor
Name (French) Varan de Gould
Name (German) Goulds Waran
Name (Spanish) Varano de Gould
Local names Bungarra
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Australia (missing however from the extreme south-west and the peninsula Cape York).
Habitat A terrestrial species associated with sandy soils. It lives in dry forests (woodland habitats) in coastal regions and deserts.
Wild population It is widely distributed and the most common monitor species in Ausralia.
Zoo population 41 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Sand Monitor


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Zoos keep the Sand Monitor primarily for educational reasons. This fairly large monitor is an attractive representative of the Australian herpetofauna, which is an interesting component of any Outback display. It is also of interest to compare this species with the various other monitor species occurring in Australia.