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POSTED: March 7, 2011 3:58 p.m.
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Savannah monitor lizards scare me.

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March 7: My son’s scaly sweetheart

My son, Michael, 19, has always had a soft spot for all kinds of critters.

In grade school he was always trying to bring home stray cats and dogs, the occasional bird, frogs, lizards, grass hoppers and the like. As he got older, he’d buy fish, hamsters, mice and even a large white rat from the neighborhood pet store. Michael has worked part-time since he was 14, so the money he earned went to feeding and caring for his numerous pets. When the smaller animals would live out their pampered lives – he always took good care of his charges – we’d find the appropriate box in which to inter them and bury them in the backyard, with a short but meaningful service. Michael became quite adept at pet eulogies.

Now, my husband, daughter and I are all animal lovers. But unlike Michael, we stick to warm blooded, docile creatures. Frank and I have a golden retriever named Manny, and a cat named Sabrina. Rachel has a Jack Russell/beagle mix named Gabbie and a cat named Edward.

Michael, a freshman at a small private college in north Georgia, will be bringing home his latest four-legged love – a savanna monitor lizard named Sheila – this week. Mike is on spring break and he bought Sheila while up at school. Where we’re going to put this three-foot long Godzilla-like specimen is beyond me. Frank, Rachel and I are living in small quarters here on the coast. We’re renting a small place since our house in north Georgia still has not sold; we’ve been down here nearly two years.

In any case, I’m not convinced Michael can keep such an unusual, exotic pet. We’re hoping he will take our advice and speak to the folks at GSU’s wildlife center about adopting Sheila.

Here are the facts on savanna monitor lizards, courtesy of Wikipedia.

“The savanna monitor has powerful limbs for digging and climbing, very powerful jaws that can easily crush bone and very strong, sharp teeth. Maximum size is usually 4 feet and rarely more than 5 feet in length.”

Yeah, okay, that’s comforting. It’s bigger than the two cats and at least one of the dogs.

 “The savanna monitor typically defends itself with its strong bite and powerful jaws. Its thick hide makes it resistant to most animal bites and …is immune to most snake venom. When confronted by a snake or other large predator the monitor rolls onto its back and grasps a hind leg in its mouth forming a ring with its body and making itself harder for the animal to swallow whole. Savanna monitors, like most monitors, will expand their throat and body. They also will gape and let out a slow, deep hissing sound when threatened.”

Wonder how the other pets will react…Michael has told me he wants to get Sheila a leash and walk her. That will go over well with our neighbors in the tiny town of Pembroke.

“The savannah monitor is usually carnivorous…”

You think?

“… but the occasional savannah monitor in captivity will eat plants, vegetables, and fruit, its preferred diet consists of small mammals…”

Hope that excludes cats and small dogs…

“…insects, eggs, birds and dead animal remains. The feeding response of a savannah monitor is very aggressive. They find and track prey by using their Jacobson's organ which is located in the roof of their mouths. The Jacobson's organ is a secondary olfactory sense organ for many animals including reptiles. Once a savannah monitor senses food it goes into an overdrive. These monitors have such an appetite they will eat themselves to death if provided the chance.”

So, this animal could pig out so much it could kill itself with food. Hmm… It’s a good thing we REALLY love our son. I keep telling him he needs to declare his major in biology, instead of a business/music major like he plans to do.

Well, we shall see how this works out. Guess Sheila will be transported in a really big aquarium. I’ll have to alert the neighbors.

 

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