Relaxed Goanna

Chilled out goanna - Photograph by Laura Lecce
Chilled out goanna – Photograph by Laura Lecce

This relaxed goanna was photographed in Western Australia, warming up on the sand in the morning sun at the entrance to a gorgeous beach. In Australia we have 25 of the 30 known goanna species. This one would have been about a meter and a half long (about 5 feet). Considering that some goanna species such as Varanus giganteus can grow over 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long, this one is only medium sized. Even still, goannas can be one of Australia’s more intimidating lizards. I remember once walking along a narrow bush track and in front of me was a large goanna, slowly lumbering in the same direction that I wanted to go. I was not bold enough to overtake him on such a narrow path, nor spook him into hurrying up, so I had to patiently follow until he decided to eventually get off the track and let me pass. These huge lizards can give a very nasty bite which often bleeds profusely. The bleeding was thought to be caused by bacterial infection transferred from their teeth upon biting, but recent research suggests that they may in fact have oral venom-producing glands. If true, this would add another venomous animal to Australia’s huge list of venomous creatures… as if we needed any more!

10 thoughts on “Relaxed Goanna

    1. Out of curiosity, I looked it up to compare… Canada has 8 lizard species (7 native, one introduced) and Australia has about 617 species of lizards. Pretty crazy comparison, but I guess is a reflection of the different climates… not many cold blooded reptiles would do well with cold Canadian temperatures.

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  1. I’ve had the pleasure of some two dozen visits to Australia and have undertaken hikes whenever possible, though most of them were not very long or very strenuous, and I encountered a goanna only once, during one of my more adventurous explorations, the walking track that parallels the shore around Rottnest Island, off the coast of Perth. Otherwise, fortune has definitely been in my favor: I’ve never seen a snake in the wild, and the only venomous Australian spider I’ve seen outside of a zoo was a whitetail that had emigrated to New Zealand. A quick internet search has taught me that the largest goanna that you mentioned, Varanus giganteus, also known as the perentie, is is the fourth-largest of all the monitor lizards in the world–and very handsome in the bargain!

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    1. You have definitely been fortunate not to cross paths with our more dangerous critters. I have seen quite a number of snakes on various walks and hikes. They will mostly get out of your way quickly and you might just see the disappearing tip of a tail. However, I have seen a few sleeping in rock crevasses or between bark that will stay put. I also think every Australian has seen a red-back spider at home in the garage, or side of the house.
      There are certainly some very hansom goannas, especially further inland Australia where the desert sand is red, the goannas are orange in color, so beautiful.


      1. Are you familiar with the writings of Henry Lawson? My favorite is The Bush Undertaker, and I’ve re-read it numerous times. A goanna is a featured character.


      2. I do know of Henry Lawson, a very famous Australian poet/writer. Surprisingly (to me), as much as we talked about him in school, I can’t say I’ve ever read anything he wrote, I really must change that!


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