Lace Monitor

Identifying A Lace Monitor

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Lace Monitor (Varanus varius)

A well-recognised and considerably large lizard, the lace monitor is native to Australia and commonly found in eastern regions of the country. Also known as tree goannas, these big lizards are carnivorous and predominantly dwell in trees, coming down to hunt for food or to breed. They are also the only lizard species with a forked tongue, and are part of the same family as the infamous Komodo dragon.

Encountering a lace monitor in your garden is very unlikely, but they can sometimes be seen at picnic or rest spots in many of Australia’s national parks – so keep an eye out during your next park tour!


About the Lace Monitor

The lace monitor is the second-largest lizard in Australia, spanning lengths of between 1.5 and 2m. Most of this length is made up of their tail, which can sometimes be twice the length of their body.

They are usually dark grey or black in colour, with creamy, yellow-colouredbands along their body, coupled with dark bands across their face and neck. Much like a snake, the lace monitor’s tongue is forked and flickers in and out of their mouth to provide the lizard with information about its surroundings.

In some regions of Australia, such as New South Wales and Queensland, lace monitors have been found with broad black and yellow bands across their body and tail. Juvenile lace monitors are slender but, as they mature, they develop layers of fat and become quite thickly-built.

Like all monitor lizards, the lace monitor is powerfulwith strong limbs and long, sharp curved claws. Their heads are wedge-shaped and pointed, and the lace monitor’s scales do not overlap as most lizards or snakes typically do. Instead, they are situated up against one another, giving the monitor’s skin a pebbled appearance.


Where Can You Find the Lace Monitor?

Lace monitors can be found on the east coast of Australia; Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and have even been seen in certain parts of South Australia. The lace monitor prefers forested areas as they usually remain in trees, but can also be seen in rocky areas or regions with shrubland.

Terrestrial and arboreal, don’t let this lizards size fool you – they are incredibly adept at climbing! They are diurnal and usually solitary creatures, only leaving the safety of trees to forage and hunt. If given the opportunity, these lizards have been known to raid chicken coops for poultry and eggs. They have even been seen rummaging through rubbish bins at parks and national reserves for something to nibble on.

A little-known fact about this lizard is their reproduction behaviour. Female lace monitors burrow into termite mounds using their sharp claws and lay their eggs within the termite nest. The termites then do the rest of the work: they quickly repair and seal off the hole to their mound, effectively incubating the monitor’s eggs! About 7 months later, the mother will return to the same termite nest to dig her newly hatched babies up. Poor termites!


Is The Lace Monitor Dangerous?

The lace monitor is not venomous but should not be approached in the wild. They are carnivores but are also scavengers, meaning they will eat almost anything that can fit in their mouths – so you don’t want to get in the way of a hungry lace monitor!

Their long tails and claws are used for defense and can be incredibly effective at doing damage to a would-be threat or opponent.


What Does the Lace Monitor Eat?

Lace monitors are both carnivorous and scavengers – their diet ranges from possums, rabbits, and wallabies, to insects, eggs, and whatever they can scrounge up from human waste in bins.

Like many lizards, the lace monitor is an ectotherm, meaning it requires a suitable environment to regulate its body temperature. This is why they are predominantly found in humid areas that get plenty of sun, giving their bodies what they need during their most active hours when they search for food.


What to do if you see A Lace Monitor

Seeing a lace monitor is always quite exciting; they are big, beautiful reptiles whose entire body works as a tool for survival. If you do encounter one of these lizards in close proximity to your home, keep children and pets well away from a potentially hungry monitor.

Contact the team at Snake Rescue Sunny Coast to come out and safely capture the lace monitor to return it to a more suitable location.

Australian Lace Monitor

Frequently Asked Questions

A lace monitor is a species of monitor lizard native to eastern Australia, and is also known as the tree goanna. They are the second-largest species of monitor lizard in Australia and belong to the same family as the renowned Komodo dragon.

Lace monitors are typically black with creamy yellow or white markings, which give them a lacy or net-like appearance. They have a long neck and tail, and can grow up to 2 meters in length.

Some easy ways to tell if you’ve spotted a lace monitor are to look for common appearance characteristics, such as:

  • Large size 
  • Colouring, which tends to be dark grey or black with yellow coloured bands 
  • Elongated head
  • Forked tongue, like a snake


Lace monitors are generally not considered dangerous to humans, but they have been known to bite if they feel threatened. Their saliva can also carry bacteria that can cause infections and because they are carnivorous and scavengers, you don’t want to interfere with a hungry lace monitor!

Lace monitors are not currently considered endangered, but they are protected under Australian law. Habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as hunting and poaching, are potential threats to their population.

Lace monitors are not recommended as pets, as they require a lot of space and specialised care. They thrive in the wild and are even a lot to handle for experienced zoo keepers and wildlife conservationists. They are also protected under Australian law, so it is illegal to keep them without a permit.

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