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Walking with Giants

Lace Monitors are the second largest monitor lizard in Australia and are among the largest lizards in the world. Averaging 1.5m in length, they can grow up to 2m. Two thirds of this length is made up of their tail, which can be twice the length of their body. Their tail is used for balance when climbing, as a whip for defense, for swimming, and for posturing to rival lace monitors.

Lace Monitors have forked tongues like snakes - this is an adaptation to further enhance their highly developed combined senses of smell and taste. As they flick their tongue in and out, it collects molecules that are transferred to the Jacobson's organ via two little pits in the roof of their mouth. This sense is so good, they can tell the difference between prey items from a long distance and in which direction they lie, whether another lace monitor in the area is male or female, and whether it is a resident or non-resident to the area.

As well as a great sense of smell and taste, they have excellent vision and acute hearing.

Lace Monitor


  • Usually solitary, lace monitors come together in spring and early summer during breeding season.

  • Lace Monitors are mildly venomous, like their close relative, the Komodo Dragon.

  • Rival males can engage in bi-pedal combat to establish dominance and access to females. They use strong needle-sharp claws, long powerful tail and razor-like teeth.

In the Wild

Lace Monitors don't waste time building their own nests to lay their eggs in. Instead, females use their long, very strong claws to dig a hole in the side of a termite mound and lay 6-12 eggs inside. The termites, like good property owners, repair the hole quickly, trapping the eggs inside. This keeps the eggs safe and incubated at a constant temperature of 30 degrees C. After around 7 months, and sometimes even longer, the female lace monitor will return to dig our the hatched baby lace monitors.

Named for the beautiful lace-like markings on their skin, each individual has a unique pattern which helps camouflage them in their sun-dappled habitat. Lace monitors have two distinct color forms or phases. The "Normal Phase" is predominantly dark grey to black with a light lace pattern. Within this phase, southern animals tend to be more banded and northern more spotted. The second color form is known as "Bells Phase" and usually occurs in some dry areas of Queensland and New South Wales. These lace monitors have bold dark grey and yellow bands across their body.

In Captivity

Lace Monitors are not fussy carnivores. They will eat anything they can fit in their mouth, including possum, rabbit, wallaby, insects and sometimes even eggs as a treat. Due to their sharp teeth, keepers feed them with tongs. Target feeding like this ensures that all the individuals get enough food.

Being an ectotherm - an animal that regulates its body temperature using the surrounding environment - it is important that they get plenty of sun and warmth. UV light is vital for their bone development, just like it is for humans. Look out for lace monitors up in the trees - with those long claws they are great climbers, in search of that sunny spot.

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