Scientifically speaking, there is no reason to believe that intelligence is something that humans and only other advanced mammals possess. Not many believe that reptiles can be just as intelligent as smart as some of the smartest non-human mammals are. And when we talk about the most intelligent types of reptiles, none of them is as intelligent as monitor lizards.
Monitor lizards have always been considered some of the more intelligent types of reptiles and are actually arguably the most intelligent reptiles in the world. However, not all monitor lizards are created equally in terms of their intelligence. There are actually monitor lizards that are considered the smartest among the pack. And if you want to know which among them are the smartest in case you want to take care of one, we discuss some of the more intelligent monitor lizards.
What are Monitor Lizards?
Monitor lizards are large species of reptiles, and they belong to the genus Varanus. Most of these monitor lizards are native to regions such as Asia, Africa, and Oceania. A lot of different species of monitor lizards can be found in the Indian subcontinent, China, and Southeast Asia. However, they can also be found in the Americas but are just there merely as invasive species that were introduced to those regions by people who bought them from breeders.
The generic name of monitor lizards is Varanus, which is a derivative word for the Arabic word for dragon or beast or anything similar to those words. Meanwhile, there is no exact reason as to why they are called “monitor” lizards in English. However, it is believed that their early name of “monitory” lizard might be because there are some species of monitor lizards that actually stand up on their hind legs to monitor their surroundings.
Monitor lizards are actually unique in the animal world in the sense that the members of this group have a very large size range that can vary depending on the species of monitor lizards. While these lizards are normally large, they do not always display the same size as there are monitor lizards that are a lot bigger than the others. For example, the Komodo Dragon found in Indonesia can grow up to 10 feet long and can be as heavy as 300 pounds compared to King’s Dwarf Monitor Lizard that is so small that you can fit it in the palm of your hand.
However, morphologically, there are not a lot of differences when it comes to monitor lizards as they basically look similar to one another if you do not take into account their size. But finer morphological characteristics among monitor lizards do vary. This can include the shape of their skulls and their limbs, as it is widely believed that certain morphological differences are a product of the ecology of the species of monitor lizards.
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Almost all monitor lizards display carnivorous tendencies in the sense that they will only eat meat. These lizards have varying diets, even though they are generally carnivorous. It is believed that the varying diet of different monitor lizards is a product of their ecology. As such, monitor lizards consume prey such as insects, rodents, smaller mammals, birds, amphibians, smaller reptiles, and crustaceans. Larger monitor lizards such as the Komodo Dragon usually prey on deer. Meanwhile, there are arboreal monitor lizards that are actually omnivorous and would prefer to eat fruits instead of meat.
Behavior and Temperament
There really is no clear-cut way to describe the way that monitor lizards behave. They tend to have varying temperaments and habits as these lizards are merely a product of their ecology and of how they evolved. For example, Savannah Monitors tend to have a calm temperament despite their large size as opposed to the ferocious Komodo Dragon that won’t hesitate to attack anything that moves. Savannah Monitors, Argus Monitors, and Ackies Monitors tend to have calmer personalities because of how they are used to living under domestic conditions as pets.
Back to the main topic, it has been discussed that monitor lizards are some of the most intelligent animals other than humans and primates. In fact, they may even be the most intelligent reptiles in the world. They have shown the ability to count, cooperate with one another when looking for food, and even recognize their keepers not only by associating them with food but also by being calmer when they are around. There are even monitor lizards that display varying personalities that are distinct and unique. That said, monitor lizards are no doubt some of the smartest animals in the world and display a certain type of intelligence that no other reptile can match.
Taking Care Intelligent Monitor Lizards
Here are some of the more intelligent pet monitor lizards and how you can take care of them:
The Rock Monitor is a large type of monitor lizard and can grow to about 5 feet long. It is also a heavy-bodied lizard that looks strong and muscular. But, it is one big boy, it is one of the most intelligent species of monitor lizards as it has been able to show that it can count for up to six snails when an experiment was conducted involving this monitor lizard.
For those looking to take care of a Rock Monitor, it should be one of the more challenging lizards to care for. They are large and are in need of an enclosure that is big enough to contain their size. They are active and will try to move around as much as possible. In that sense, you really need to keep it somewhere that is big enough for it.
Aside from that, there are not a lot of things to worry about the Rock Monitor. It handles taming quite easily as long as you try to handle it on a daily basis. And if you tame this boy and have it get used to a captive lifestyle, it will be very receptive to getting handled, and you may even walk it on a leash.
Nile Monitors are another one of those smart monitor lizards that can easily show you how clever they are both in the wild and in captive conditions. It has been observed that Nile Monitors are experts at cooperating with one another when it comes to foraging for food. In one observation, two Nile Monitors coordinated to trick a crocodile into leaving its nest.
Larger than most other monitor lizards, the Nile Monitor is usually about 6 feet long but can grow to up to 9 feet. They are large and are not the friendliest of pets, even though you can still keep them in captivity. They are not like their friendly counterparts in the sense that they are very receptive to getting handled. The only possible way for you to be able to handle these reptiles is if you raised them since they were young and that you regularly handled them up to the point of adulthood.
However, Nile Monitors are pretty much dangerous pets that are considered more dangerous than crocodiles of the same size. You have to be really careful when you are caring for these large and intelligent creatures. If you can, avoid having Nile Monitors as pets, especially wild-caught ones. You may be a lucky one if you happen to be able to care for one that does not resist getting tamed.
Ackie Monitors may not be as smart as the other monitor lizards on this list, but this is still very much an intelligent reptile that is not only smart but is also widely regarded as the best monitor lizard to keep as a pet because of its overall demeanor and its manageable size. It is only about 2 to 3 feet long and does not have the aggressive nature that most other monitor lizards have. Moreover, they act as pets and are very much easier to take care of compared to other types of monitor lizards. You would find that these monitor lizards are not difficult to tame and are quite receptive to getting handled as long as they are captive-bred and are well adjusted to handling.
Do not let the size of the Water Monitor fool you. They may, in fact, be the largest monitor lizard on this list, but they are not only large and smart but are actually very easy to take care of as pets. Water Monitors can grow to lengths of about 8 feet and can very well be 70 pounds heavy. However, these gigantic lizards tend to be docile and gentle despite their size.
Water Monitors show a kind of intelligence that not all monitor lizards display. They are highly inquisitive reptiles that are very curious about their surroundings. Moreover, they are intelligent enough to actually try to interact with their owners. This makes caring for one quite easy as you no longer have to worry about its overall temperament and behavior.
Savannah Monitors are some of the more popular types of monitor lizards for exotic pet owners. They are not as gigantic as some of the other monitor lizards on this list, and that makes them a lot easier to take care of than having a giant reptile moving around the house. Just like some of the monitors on this list, the Savannah Monitor is highly inquisitive and will interact with its owner from time to time. This means that it is just as intelligent as most other monitor lizards in the pet trade industry. When it comes to getting tamed, Savannah Monitors are just as receptive as some other monitors. However, even though they are smaller and are a bit more docile compared to their counterparts, they should still be respected and should not be taken lightly. Other than that, their care requirements are basically similar to any type of monitor lizard’s. They are not difficult reptiles to take care of so long as you put in the necessary time and effort into interacting with them and feeding them the best food for their kind.