This is the largest of all Australian lizards and one of the biggest lizards in the world growing to over 2.5m. The largest and by far the bulkiest on earth is the infamous Komodo Dragon, Varanus komodoensis, which can be found on several islands such as Rinca and Komodo in nearby Indonesia, quite close to Bali.
Australia has a large diversity of reptiles and 25 of the worlds 40+ monitor species are found here, many of them in the vast desert areas of Western Australia. A few monitor species are found in and around Perth as well.
Perenties have a very long neck, stout body and very long tail. They are yellow or creamy coloured on the neck and have white blotches inside dark reticulated pattern over much of the body. The legs are dark and spotted. Monitors are the only lizards to have forked tongues. In Australia they and many other species of lizards are often referred to as Bungarras and Goannas.
Sir David Attenborough came to WA to be filmed with them for his BBC Life in Cold Blood series. I have seen them around Sandfire Road House on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert in our arid north. In the dappled shade of scrubby bush their markings are very effective camouflage. They are not too wary of mankind and strut around feeling quite confident in our presence.
A formidable predator, fast enough to catch rabbits and big enough to feed on wallaby, and depending on age and size will feast upon eggs, insects, snakes other lizards, birds and even carrion. Smaller prey is swallowed whole; larger items can be torn to pieces by razor sharp claws and their long shredding teeth.
Perenties live in burrows or rocky outcrops, their long sharp claws effective digging tools. They can stand upright on their back legs using their tail to balance (tripoding) to get a good look around them, which makes for an impressive spectacle.
All monitor lizards are egg layers, with Perenties 10-15 eggs are laid. These will hatch several months later and the young are almost instantly independent, receiving no parental care upon emerging from their eggs.
Photos: Perentie at Kalbarri National Park. Kind thanks to Alan Hodson.