MONITOR LIZARDS

There is a game for four players printed on the reverse of the map of the Mountain Zebra National Park. Photographs of the animals, a few prominent birds, and a Rock Monitor Lizard have been allocated various points – adding to the fun of totalling one’s views at the end of the game drive to see who spotted the most animals first along the way. It is a great way of keeping younger members of the family interested for longer than they might else be.

Looks can be deceiving, especially when something is seen in haste and the ‘proof’ is a small photograph worth eight points! Thus, while we were parked next to Doornhoek Dam watching the antics of various water birds, the youngest member of our party looked down and called out triumphantly “I am watching a Rock Monitor Lizard!”

She must have had a good view of it from her window; I had to twist around and then try to focus with my telephoto lens in a hurry – not very successful with the grass in the way! In two ticks it had slipped into the water from where it kept a beady eye on a pair of Red-knobbed Coots swimming nearby. They must have been aware of its presence too as they immediately swam out a little further from the grassy bank.

‘It’: upon reflection, this was not a Rock Monitor Lizard, but a Nile Monitor Lizard (Varanus niloticus), also known as a leguaan or waterlikkewaan in South Africa. I am grateful for the beautifully clear photographs that Chad Keates has published of the two types of monitor lizards in his blog https://nextgenherpetologist.co.za/2016/12/23/the-monitor-lizards-of-southern-africa/ which easily clarified the identification as my own photograph is ‘waterlogged’ as you can see:

This one, photographed at Transport Dam in the Kruger National Park was more co-operative:

A Rock Monitor Lizard (Varanus albigularis) kept us entertained one late afternoon in the Satara Camp of the Kruger National Park, sending doves and glossy starlings flying as it made its way across the ground:

Then climbed a tree!

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