Asian water monitor

They can be found basking in the sun with their fellow monitors, sharing warmth and companionship

Carlos Delgado

It is indeed one of the most formidable lizards on our planet, second only to the Komodo dragon in size among the members of the Varanidae family. Native to South and Southeast Asia, it is a common sight across its range, which includes parts of India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asian countries, and Indonesian islands.

Growing up to 3 meters (10 feet) in length, Asian water monitors are true giants. Their robust, muscular bodies are covered in tough, scaly skin patterned with a series of dark bands and spots that provide excellent camouflage in their natural habitat. This patterning is not just for stealth; it also plays a role in thermoregulation, as the dark colors absorb heat from the sun.

The forked tongue of the Asian water monitor is a highly specialized sensory organ, flicking out to collect scent particles from the air and water, which are then brought back into the mouth and analyzed by Jacobson’s organ. This gives the lizard a nearly unparalleled ability to detect and track down prey or escape potential threats.

Asian water monitors are opportunistic feeders with a varied diet that includes fish, frogs, birds, small mammals, and insects. They are also known to scavenge carrion, which makes them important contributors to the ecosystem as they help recycle nutrients back into the environment.

Adapted to a semi-aquatic lifestyle, the Asian water monitor possesses powerful limbs equipped with sharp claws, which aid in climbing and digging. Its strong, laterally compressed tail serves as an effective propeller in the water, making it an excellent swimmer capable of both swift surface swimming and prolonged diving.

Despite their size and predatory prowess, Asian water monitors face threats from habitat destruction and fragmentation, pollution, and hunting for their skin and meat. In some areas, they are also captured for the pet trade.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Bangladesh
2018
Cambodia
2018
China
2018
Yunnan, Hainan, Guangxi, Guangdong
Hong Kong
2018
Possibly Extinct
India
2018
Andaman Is., Nicobar Is.
Indonesia
2018
Laos
2018
Malaysia
2018
Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak
Myanmar
2018
Singapore
2018
Sri Lanka
2018
Taiwan
2018
Introduced: Main Island
Thailand
2018
Vietnam
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No