The Savannah monitor is a medium-sized species of monitor lizard native to Africa. They are robust creatures, with powerful limbs for digging, powerful jaws and blunt, peglike teeth. The skin coloration pattern varies according to the local habitat substrate. They are usually dark grey with lighter tan or yellowish patterns. The body scales are large, usually less than 100 scales around midbody, a partly laterally compressed tail with a double dorsal ridge and nostrils equidistant from the eyes and the tip of the snout.
Savannah monitors are found throughout sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal east to Sudan and south almost to the Congo River and Rift Valley. They live in savannah or grassland areas, but may also be found in rocky, semi-desert habitats, open forest, and woodlands.
Savannah monitors are primarily ground-dwelling creatures that shelter in burrows, although they are sometimes found in bushes or low trees. They are very good climbers and excellent diggers. Savannah monitors are solitary and territorial. They spend most of their time hunting their prey or basking. Males are very territorial and defend their territory very aggressively. They chase intruders with hissing, thrashing their tails, and inflating their throats. If the opponent doesn't leave, they may wrestle and bite each other. When threatened Savannah monitors will hiss loudly and strike the ground with their tail to ward off predators. If that doesn't work they will play dead.
Savannah monitors are carnivores. They use a feast and fast system which depends on the weather. They feast during the wet season when food is plentiful and during the dry season they survive off the fat reserves they built up during the wet season. The diet of Savannah monitors includes beetles, scorpions, snakes, snails, millipedes, small mammals, birds, lizards, and eggs.
Little is known about the mating system in Savannah monitors. Their breeding season occurs during the wet season. Four weeks after mating females lay 10 to 50 eggs in a nest she builds or in a termite mound. The incubation period lasts around 5-6 months. Hatchlings are independent at birth and become reproductively mature when they are 1.5-2 years old.
Savannah monitors are hunted for food and leather and are used in traditional medicine. They are also hunted for the international pet trade. Savannah monitors are very common in the pet trade and more than 100,000 wild individuals are exported every year. Juveniles are collected from several countries in West Africa (mainly Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria) and exported worldwide. They sold as "captive bred", captive farmed or ranched are the offspring of gravid females collected during the breeding season whose eggs are incubated by exporters.
According to IUCN, the Savannah monitor is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Savannah monitors play a very important role in their ecosystem as they are one of the only large land carnivores.