Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
Order: Squamata, Family: Varanidae
The Malayan water monitor grows from 7 to 9 feet in length and weighs 50 to 75 pounds.
Blue-black with yellow stripes and spots, it has a dirty white or yellow throat, and its tail is banded with yellow and black.
The water monitor is similar in appearance to a crocodile but has a shorter snout and more rounded body.
Its strong legs each come equipped with five well-developed claws. It has long, sharp, backwardly curved teeth; a long, whip-like tail; and a very long neck with an elongated snout and nostrils close to the end of its nose.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- The Malayan water monitor grows from 7 to 9 feet in length and weighs 50 to 75 pounds.
- Blue-black with yellow stripes and spots, it has a dirty white or yellow throat, and its tail is banded with yellow and black.
- The water monitor is similar in appearance to a crocodile but has a shorter snout and more rounded body.
- Its strong legs each come equipped with five well-developed claws. It has long, sharp, backwardly curved teeth; a long, whip-like tail; and a very long neck with an elongated snout and nostrils close to the end of its nose.
- The Malayan water monitor inhabits Southeast Asia, Indonesia, China, Borneo and Sri Lanka.
- It prefers temperate forests, rain forests and freshwater rivers, often living along riverbanks or in swamps.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- Malayan water monitors eat small mammals (especially rats), birds, reptiles, fish, crabs, frogs, lizards, snakes, juvenile crocodiles, tortoises, and bird and reptile eggs; young and smaller species eat insects, and large species may feed on carrion.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- Malayan water monitors are diurnal. While they mostly live on land, they are in fact semi-aquatic and adept at climbing. They use tree branches for basking in the sun and watching for prey.
- Their burrows are often located along riverbanks, with the entrance starting downward then forming a shallow pool of water.
- "Open pursuit" is the Malayan monitor's primary hunting technique. The monitor is very fast for its size, due to its powerful leg muscles. It can remain submerged for up to 30 minutes while hunting for aquatic prey, using its flattened tail as a propulsive force.
- When devouring large prey, the water monitor tears flesh with its teeth and claws. It doesn't chew or crush food but swallows prey whole or in large chunks; a protective bony sheath encasing its brain enables the monitor to consume large prey safely; it can swallow eggs without breaking shells, digesting them totally in stomach.
- The breeding season lasts from April to October.
- Female monitors lay seven to 35 leathery eggs under tree roots, in holes of trees or in termite mounds.
- Young are 8 to 10 inches in length with intricate an pattern of colorful spots and bands that fade as they mature. Females often place their young in trees for protection.
- Water monitors live for approximately 15 years.
VI. ECOLOGICAL IMPACT:
- The Malayan water monitor has a long, slender tongue, which it flickers continually in and out when searching for food.
- Escape is the monitor's primary defense. It runs, burrows, swims or climbs to elude enemies; if cornered, it will rise up on legs, inflate body, hiss loudly and lash with tail — this behavior constitutes a bluff. If this approach fails, the monitor will employ its teeth and claws. Monitors often escape by climbing a tree and jumping from a branch into the safety of a stream or water.
- Its sharp claws help in burrowing, climbing and defense.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
- Preyed upon by larger carnivorous mammals, birds of prey and crocodiles, the Malayan water monitor is also preyed upon by humans for its flesh and eggs.
- It preys heavily on crocodile nests.
- In Asian folk medicine, the monitor's gall bladder is sometimes used as a special tea bag to cure heart and liver ailments; its fat is rendered for skin ointments.
VIII. MORE MALAYAN WATER MONITOR FACTS:
- Protected by law in most Southeast Asian countries, the Malayan water monitor is still hunted indiscriminately.
- Water monitors sometimes prey upon small domestic animals, and as a result are killed as pests.
- Monitors are second only to crocodilians in the quantity of their leather, and are slaughtered by the thousands for their hides.
- They're popular in the pet trade.
- The Malayan water monitor is the best swimmer and most aquatic of monitors, often paddling several miles out to sea.
The water monitor is an extreme carnivore — it will eat just about any animal that can be consumed. Like the Komodo dragon, it has been known to dig up the corpses of humans and devour them.