During the last few weeks, we have noted with interest and pleasure, the presence of three Lace Monitors of varying sizes in our backyard. A Lace Monitor, Varanus varius, can grow up to two metres in length, so these are not babies that you barely notice but resemble prehistoric dinosaurs complete with teeth.
With their usual slow ambling gait, they look very menacing; however, they can also run like the wind and are expert tree-climbers. This aids them in robbing nests for eggs and small birds. They also eat small mammals, lizards, and any kind of carrion they can find.
At present they are living off the fat of the land since our Slovenian neighbours, who seem to feed the entire Island wildlife, admit to feeding them hen’s eggs, which they swallow whole, and at Christmas, raw steak! My husband and I have been watching the group to try and work out the relationships between them.
It was obvious that the two larger ones were very aggressive towards each other when they met….a bit of eye-balling followed by head nodding, then the winner charged whilst the less dominant turned tail and ran for his life until he had been seen off the premises, for now. Two males, we thought.
One evening we inadvertently got involved in one of these spats. The two dragons were eying each other off nearby when they suddenly made a rush for it right under where we were sitting having our peaceful evening drink. We both yelled, and our legs shot up as two angry male monitors sorted things out. Neither of us fancied being in the way of those teeth, although but to be fair, it seemed to be mainly displayed.
Still, we needed that drink. One afternoon, early in the New Year, romance was obviously in the air. I saw the more dominant male approaching the smaller monitor in quite a different manner to that which he approached the other male. They seemed happy together. Then he boldly covered her and began mating vigorously.
As he was at least twice as heavy as her, I can imagine this might have caused some discomfort, but she did not seem to mind. In fact, she stayed around, and they continued to mate over the next hour and a half much to the disapproval of the local corellas who screamed from the treetops their opinion of this lascivious behaviour.
I might have had some difficulty in explaining this to my young grandsons but that was their father’s job. Apparently, we can expect the female to lay her eggs in a termite nest or hollow log, and hopefully, the eggs will hatch in a few months if not discovered and eaten by another Monitor. A diet of steak and eggs seems to have increased the testosterone level of the male.
I hope they continue to stay around but whether my neighbour will continue to feed them is a moot point. She has just shown me a nasty bite on her hand. The large monitor had confused a tasty piece of steak with her middle finger, and she had a nasty tear wound. She applied first aid, but I felt antibiotics would be called for, but this was a public holiday, and she did not fancy sitting in a doctor’s surgery for hours even if she could find one open. In the event, common sense and pain prevailed.
Her husband drove her to the Emergency Dept. of the local hospital where she provided something different for the young doctors. “Never had one of these before!” was the general consensus.
After a Tetanus shot, bandaging, and a course of antibiotics, she was released with advice about staying out of range whilst feeding wild animals. This morning she seems none-the worse for her adventure although I must say, I am treating our “pets” with increased respect.