Walking with giants.

Lace monitors are the second largest monitor lizard in Australia and are among the largest lizards in the world. Averaging 1.5m in length, they can grow up to 2m. Two thirds of this length is made up of their tail, which can be twice the length of their body! The length of their tail is used for balance when climbing, as a whip for defence, for swimming, and for posturing to rival lace monitors! 

Lace monitors have a forked tongue like snakes - this is an adaptation to further enhance their highly developed combined senses of smell and taste. As they flick their tongue in and out, it collects molecules that are transferred to the Jacobson’s organ via two little pits in the roof of their mouth. This sense is so good, they can tell the difference between prey items from a long distance and in which direction they lie, whether another lace monitor in the area is male or female, and whether it is a resident or non-resident to the area. Imagine being able to know all that with your tongue! 

As well as a great sense of smell and taste, they have excellent vision and acute hearing.

Egg-cellent parenting

Lace monitors don’t waste time building their own nests to lay their eggs in. Instead, females use their long, very strong claws to dig a hole in the side of a termite mound and lay 6-12 eggs inside. The termites, like good property owners, repair the hole quickly, trapping the eggs inside. This keeps the eggs safe and incubated at a constant temperature of 30°C. After around 7 months, and sometimes even longer, the female lace monitor will return to the site to dig out the hatched baby lace monitors. 

Designer wear

Named for the beautiful lace-like markings on their skin, each individual has a unique pattern which helps camouflage them in their sun-dappled habitat. Lace monitors have two distinct colour forms or phases. The ‘Normal Phase’ is predominantly dark grey to black with a light lace pattern. Within this phase, southern animals tend to be more banded and northern more spotted. The second colour form is known as ‘Bell’s Phase’ and usually occurs in some dry areas of Queensland and New South Wales. These lace monitors have bold dark grey and yellow bands across their body.  


Keeper Seth feeds the lace monitors!

Australia’s lace monitors are among the largest lizards in the world and one of the ways we care for them at the Zoo is ensuring that they’re fit and active.

At the Zoo

Our ectotherm keepers are very 'hands on' with lace monitors hatched at Auckland Zoo - regularly interacting and allowing the young lizards to use them like a tree! This helps to create a stress-free relationship, which is especially important when it comes to health checks.

Lace monitors are not fussy carnivores! They will eat anything they can fit in their mouth, including possum (a favourite here at the Zoo), rabbit, wallaby, insects and sometimes even eggs as a treat. Due to their sharp teeth, keepers feed them with tongs. Target feeding like this ensures that all the individuals get enough food.

Being an ectotherm – an animal that regulates its body temperature using the surrounding environment – it is important that they get plenty of sun and warmth. Their habitat at Auckland Zoo has a specially designed retractable roof that allows UV light through even when closed! UV light is vital for their bone development, just like it is for people. Look out for the lace monitors up the trees – with those long claws they are great climbers, in search of the ultimate sunny spot.  

But it’s not always sunny in Australia! The sprinkler system in the lace monitor habitat mimics the rain (down to the droplet size) they would experience in the wild on Australia’s eastern coast.  


Meet our Monitors

Say g'day to Bruce, Alf and Ned - our male lace monitors and learn all about these awesome creatures from across the ditch.

How we’re helping

In October 2015, six captive bred lace monitors arrived at Auckland Zoo from Australia. Since then, more than 40 youngsters have been hatched here, most of which have moved to other zoos in New Zealand and around the world. This helps ensure genetic diversity and sustainability in captive populations.  


Introducing our lovely lace monitor hatchlings

Recently five new monitors hatched at our zoo – a first for us and New Zealand!

Other Australia Bush Track Species