The Perentie is the largest monitor lizard native to Australia, and the fourth-largest living lizard on earth. It has a very strong tail and powerful legs with 5 clawed toes. The color pattern is brown with large cream or yellow rosettes.
Perenties are found in Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland. They inhabit arid desert areas, rocky outcroppings, and gorges, with hard-packed soil and loose stones.
Perenties lead a solitary life; they generally avoid human contact and will retreat before they are seen. Being able diggers, they can excavate a burrow for shelter in only minutes. Their long claws enable them to easily climb trees. They often stand on their back legs and tail to gain a better view of the surrounding terrain. This behavior, known as "tripoding", is quite common in monitor species. Perenties are fast sprinters and can run using either all four legs or just their hind legs. When detected, perenties will either freeze (lying flat on the ground, and remaining very still until the danger has passed) or run. If cornered, this powerful carnivore will stand its ground and use its arsenal of claws, teeth, and whip-like tail to defend itself. They inflate their throats and hiss as a defensive or aggressive display, and strike at opponents with their muscular tails. Perenties will also lunge forward with open mouths, either as a bluff or as an attack. The bite of a perentie can do much damage, not only from the teeth but also because of the oral secretions from their mouths. Perenties are normally active hunters but may also hide and ambush prey when needed. They attack by either biting with their strong jaws or whipping the prey with their long, powerful tail; their tails are so strong, they can easily break a dog's leg with a single blow. Once they bring their prey down, they shake it to death in their strong jaws and then swallow it whole. Perenties use their tails both offensively and defensively.
Perenties are carnivores (scavengers) and feed on a wide variety of prey. Depending on their size, they hunt insects, lizards, fish, birds, turtle eggs, small animals such as rats and rabbits and carrion. Larger individuals will also hunt large animals, such as small kangaroos, wombats, and even lone dingoes.
Perenties breed in spring and summer. Females lay eggs in deep sandy burrows or termite mounds. The clutch usually consists of 6 to 12 eggs and hatchlings appear 9-12 months later.
There are no major threats to perenties at present. However, these lizards were once a favored food item among desert Aboriginal tribes, and their fat was used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the perentie total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.
Perenties are important predators and also scavengers in the ecosystem they live in. As these lizards feed on carrion they prevent the spread of disease and assist with a sort of “natural recycling”.