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The Yellow Monitor with the exception of the Komodo dragon, is considered the most endangered of the monitor lizards.
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Yellow Monitor
Varanus flavescens 

Local Name: Goa (Urdu)
Genus: Varanus
Status: Rare and restricted
Warning: This lizard inflicts a powerful bite with its long, strong and sharp teeth


Photo Credit: Daniel Bennett (



Description and Biology:

General characteristics
The Yellow Monitor has a snout-vent length 500-515 mm, tail 575-600 mm.


The dorsum reddish brown, body and tail barred with alternating dark-edged reddish brown and dirty yellow bars, ventrum light yellow.



This varanid appear to be most active during the wetter part of the year and least active in the dry winter (November - February). They shelter in burrows, crevices in river banks or termite mounds (Khan 1988, Auffenberg et al 1989). They may seal their burrow entrances with a plug of earth (Auffenberg, pers. comm.). They have very short toes and are not efficient climbers. During the wet season, when their habitats are flooded, yellow monitors spend much of their time in water, building up large fat reserves to sustain them through the winter. Their diet consists largely of frogs, toads, turtle eggs and lizard eggs. They also eat frogspawn,  mammals, birds and their eggs and a range of invertebrates, especially beetles and earthworms (Sarker 1987; Losos & Greene 1988; Auffenberg et al 1989). According to Auffenberg et al they do not eat molluscs, although these are available in many areas. However Sarker (1987) records predation on crabs. Like many monitor lizards, the yellow monitor likes to bask at very high temperatures (45oC). In captivity the yellow monitor is a relatively inactive species. In captivity they can live for over ten years.


Breeding activity is observed from April to June; 15-30 eggs are laid in burrows. There is no evidence that they lay eggs in termite mounds. Theobald (1868 in Riley et al 1985) must be referring to the Bengal monitor when he claims that monitor lizards oviposit in termitaria in Burma. Eggs are probably deposited in burrows in elevated areas to avoid the possibility of nest flooding (Das, pers. comm.). In India hatchlings appear in March. Equal numbers of males and females have been reported, but males appear to be more active during the mating season.


Habitat, Distribution and Status:
The yellow monitor is a poorly known species and is considered to be one of the most endangered monitor lizards. It is found only in Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan (Minton 1966; Smith 1932; Swan & Leviton 1962; Auffenberg et al 1989; Sarker 1987). 


It is a lizard of seasonally flooded forests, and marshy areas in flood plains of the Indus River and its tributaries. It extends into tilled fields along water courses with mesic habitat, and usually burrows in the roots of trees and other vegetation. This varanid has a restricted distribution range. It has been reported from Salt Range and District  Sialkot in northern Punjab , and the Sindh Delta in Pakistan . It is known to extend to the western Bengal


Despite the protected status of this lizard, trade in their skins during the 1980s was reported at almost half a million per year, most of which were exported to Japan. The lizards' period of greatest activity coincides with a seasonal drop in employment in agricultural areas, and as a result many people collect their skins and sell them on to dealers (Chakraborty & Chakraborty 1987; Luxmoore & Groombridge 1990). The yellow monitor has probably disappeared from most of its previous range and, with the exception of the Komodo dragon, is considered the most endangered of the monitor lizards.





  • Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan, Herpetological Lab Rabwah, Pakistan

  • Daniel Bennett (

  • Nausherwan Ahmed

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