Filming Goannas Or Monitor Lizards

by Gisela

I'm an independent producer for wildlife and science documentaries. We are currently researching our new project, a one hour documentary about goannas / monitor lizards.

The idea is to introduce several species of the Varanus family, from pygmy goannas to Komodo Dragons, and to combine this with new research results from Australia and elsewhere.

We are trying to work out where we can get close to these fascinating creatures with our cameras and capture their behaviour. Our research shows it will be very difficult to film these often very shy animals in the wild.

You appear to have several goannas at your place that are somewhat used to people.

My questions is: would it be possible for us to film at your place? If yes, what kinds of behaviour are we likely to be able to see, which species of monitor lizards live in your area, and what would be the best time?

Thank you very much in advance for your time!
Best regards,

Filming Goannas Or Monitor Lizards Response

Hi Gisela!

Yes, we have plenty of lizards living here, not just goannas. They're everywhere. They are neither shy, nor rare. We have plenty of nature here and precious few people. That makes a big difference.

However, one week they hang around, next week they are nowhere to be seen. You can't count on them being here when you need them.

At the sugar mill where I used to work we had a couple of big ones (well over a metre) that seemed to live there permanently. They wandered through the factory and hissed at us, as if they owned the place. But again, they were there every day for several weeks, then we did not see them for months, and all of a sudden they were back... Unpredictable.

And of course, if you rocked up with a film team, you could guarantee that they'd go into hiding. That's how it always works, isn't it?

Rather than setting up somewhere and banking on the buggers to cooperate, I would recommend to go travelling across the north. Goannas are plentiful. You'd see a few every day, just driving. They always wander across the roads. The problem is that nobody can predict where and when.

The ones you see wandering across the roads here are some kind of sand goannas. There is a bit of taxonomic confusion about them, so don't ask me exactly what kind they are...

You could easily film them running up a tree I imagine, provided you have the camera ready... If you are lucky and one wanders past while you are camped somewhere you may be able to watch them digging for food.

The easiest kind to observe are the water monitors. Water is cool, so they need to spend a lot of time sun basking to keep their body temperature up. You can always find a few at any waterhole, provided there isn't already a bunch of noisy tourists there.

Water monitors are a lot less worried about movement and people than other goannas. They don't need to be because it's so easy for them to escape. They just slip into the water from their rock or log. They seem to know that predators can't follow and always wait until the last second.

All in all it's my experience that goannas are very easy to observe. It's just that being in the right place at the right time that I can't help you with...

I would try the very early or late dry season, or even during the wet, when there are less people around, and it's warmer so lizards are more active.

All the best for your project!

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