Backyard Buddies
Sand Monitor

Photo: John Tann

Sand Monitor

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Also known as Gould's Monitors or Racehorse Goannas, Sand Monitors are voracious eaters and will eat almost anything that is smaller than them, including other lizards.

Their exceptionally strong legs are just made for digging, and they put their sharp claws and snout to work, too.

They live in burrows, often setting up a home in an abandoned rabbit warren. These burrows do double duty, as protection from the elements and predators. The entrance to the burrow is often concealed behind a fallen log, shrub or rock.

The Sand Monitor is a diurnal species, which means that it is active during the day and sleeps at night.

The Sand Monitor can grow up to 160 cm and can weigh as much as 6 kg. It is the second largest monitor species in Australia, after the Perentie, which can be over 2 m long.

Their mating season is November and December and they lay an average of 6 eggs per clutch.

Sand Monitors live all over Australia except the very south and south-east.

The Sand Monitor's beautifully patterned scales set them apart from plainer lizards. They are greenish-grey all over, with ringed yellow spots. These spots are most prominent on their tail and lower torso, where they form patterns and bands. 

The head of a Sand Monitor resembles that of a snake, and has yellow patterns on the sides. The end of the Sand Monitor's tail is usually white, cream or yellow.

Sand Monitor's have an extremely keen sense of smell, and use their long, forked tongues to explore their environment.

When hunting for food, they keep their snout close to the ground, and flick their tongue in and out, using scent to find any hidden prey underground.

Did you know?

When it's time to lay eggs, the female sand monitor makes use of a termite mound, digging to the centre and letting the termites reconstruct the mound around the clutch. The termites regulate temperature and humidity of the eggs.

One of the favourite foods of Sand Monitors that live in northern areas is crocodile eggs.


The Sand Monitor is a very popular choice for a pet in Australia. They are fascinating buddies and can make great company, but as with any pet they are for life, not for Christmas. They require careful care and commitment, so make sure you research what you need to make the Sand Monitor happy and healthy before taking one on as part of your family.

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