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A Look at Monitor Lizards

Located in the seaside village of John’s Pass, the Alligator Attraction & Wildlife Learning Center is home to more than 200 rescued animals, pet surrenders and aquatic life. From our namesake reptiles to others in the same family, as well as mammals and even stingrays, we have dozens of creatures that are a blast to visit.

Some of the Alligator Attraction’s most striking residents are our monitor lizards. ​These reptiles are native to Africa, Asia, Australia and Indonesia, but are now commonly found in the Americas where they are considered an invasive species. ​These versatile animals can adapt well to many different environments, which contributes to their fast spread in a wide variety of non-native countries.

There are more than 70 species of monitor lizards, which range in size from Komodo Dragons—the largest lizard on earth which is native to Indonesia and has the potential to reach 6 feet and 150 pounds—to Australia’s Dampier Peninsula monitor, the smallest of all of the species weighing just a half an ounce.

Alligator Attraction is home to three monitor lizards, including a Savannah monitor named Gullah, an Ornate monitor called Slash, and an Argus monitor that’s named Argus (we know, SO creative!). While Gullah likes eating insects, the other two are fed lean meats such as chicken, turkey and fish. Most types of monitors have the ability to climb trees, however, the Ornate and Argus species are much likelier to do so. All of them love water, and are fast on land as well. Being able to forage in all these different environments is what lends to them being such a formidable predator wherever they are found.

All three of our monitors were pets surrendered by their owners who could no longer care for them. If you’re interested in acquiring one as a pet, you should know that there’s no true “beginner’s” monitor. Some species do well in captivity, but with many capable of growing to lengths of up to six feet, they need habitats that can properly accommodate them.

Team member Kyle Barron at Alligator Attraction loves our monitor lizards and enjoys showing them off to guests. He often takes Slash the Ornate monitor out of his cage so visitors can get a closer look at him. But monitors aren’t to be passed around to just anyone. Kyle explains that they are highly intelligent and that he’s worked with Slash for many years. “His favorite thing is piggyback rides,” says Kyle, “but he tenses up around people he doesn’t know very well. He is like a teddy bear with people he trusts.”

The bottom line is that these are wild animals that need to be carefully handled and tamed over time. “If you put the work in and you’re dedicated, you can have a really good pet,” Kyle says. For those who would rather admire them from afar, Alligator Attraction’s three monitors are on display in cases that replicate their natural habitat. So stop by anytime to learn more about these riveting reptiles!

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