Skip to main content

Go back to blog

Celebrating World Lizard Day with our ‘very intelligent’ Spencer’s Monitor

  • Saturday 14th August 2021
  • Lizard, Monitor

Stefan Stickstongueout WILDLIFE Sydneyzoo

Lizards! Arguably the most intelligent of all reptiles.

Did you know that many reptiles are intelligent? It’s true! The intelligence of some lizard species can rival that of birds and even mammals.

Often considered to be one of the most intelligent reptiles in the world, is the Monitor lizard. The Spencer’s Monitor in particular is a species of the Monitor lizard family that has been known to count snails during feeding time, remember hiding places and can travel long distances and still find their way back home, thanks to their excellent memory.

To celebrate World Lizard Day (Saturday 14th August), our proud Keepers are sharing the training progress of Stefan, our four-year-old, male Spencer’s Monitor, who lives up to the ‘intelligent’ reputation that these lizards have earned.

WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo’s Reptile keeper, Morgan Reid, said: “World Lizard Day encourages us to show appreciation for lizards. They’re such unique reptiles and we’re very fortunate to work with a beautiful Spencer’s Monitor named Stefan. Many people are surprised that we’re able to train lizards or that they’re intelligent reptiles, but it’s true!

“We have been training Stefan for almost a year and in that time, he has quickly learnt to independently step onto the scales or to a station, which helps us monitor his growth and health. Stefan is also being pet pack trained and tactile conditioned – which means that he’s very comfortable interacting with humans and will voluntarily come forward for medical checks, enabling us to closely monitor his overall well-being.

“We train Stefan using positive reinforcement, we use a clicker to teach him the desired behaviour and he has quickly learnt that every time he hears the click a food reward is on its way!”

Stefan Spencersmonitor Wildlifesydneyzoo

8 cool facts about lizards and Spencer’s Monitors:

  • There are about 6,000 species of lizards in the world
  • Lizards are found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Most kinds of lizards absorb water from their food, which means they don’t need to be near water.
  • Lizards range in size from two inches in length to over eleven feet.
  • Most lizard species have a tail that regenerates, which means it grows another one if it breaks off. However, the Spencer’s Monitor’s tale does not grow back.
  • Spencer’s Monitor (binomial name Varanus spenceri), can also be referred to as Spencer’s Goanna - is a species of Monitor lizard that is endemic to Australia. Belonging to the family Varanidae, it was named after the English-Australian biologist Walter Baldwin Spencer.
  • Like all Monitor lizards, the Spencer’s Monitor is equipped with sharp claws. However, it does not use its claws to defend itself against predators, but rather, to burrow holes that act as its shelter.
  • Spencer’s Monitors love to eat and just like many other lizards, their primary line of defence is their long, muscular tail – which is powerful enough to knock out or knock down an adult human being with relative ease!