Photo of the Month: Perentie monitor

By Megan Runquist Holmstedt

Perentie; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Perentie; PHOTO CREDIT: Jamie Pham

Status: This shy species of monitor lizard is listed as near threatened by CITES’s Appendix II; it is not necessarily currently threatened with extinction, but it may become so unless trade is closely controlled. The IUCN Red List has yet to assess the species.

Habitat: The perentie lives in dry, arid parts of Australia, from Western Queensland to coastal Western Australia. It generally prefers rocky hills and outcrops where it can dig a burrow, which may be extensive and have many exits.

Diet: This lizard is an efficient predator and will eat nearly anything it can overpower, from other lizards and small mammals to venomous snakes and even small marsupials such as wallabies. Once its prey is caught in its sharp, backwards-pointing teeth, the perentie will violently shake it to death and then swallow it whole.

As the largest monitor lizard in Australia, a perentie typically reaches a nose-to-tail length of six feet or more. Its long claws and strong front legs make it a capable digger and climber, and its powerful bite and whip-like tail help defend it when it feels cornered. This monitor is also an excellent sprinter and can reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour!

Two perentie, which arrived April 7 and are a new species to the Zoo, are about two and a half years old and still have some growing to do. They can be seen in the exhibit across from the Komodo dragon in the Australia section of the Zoo.