Before we dive deep into describing V. melinus monitor lizard species and all the aspects of its husbandry I will suggest you read “What are Varanids” section of this website to better understand what monitor lizards are and how different they are from other reptiles.
Now that you have read that important section, let’s get to know our hero, Varanus melinus aka Quince monitor aka Yellow monitor. I will drop for now all the detailed scientific descriptions to make things simple. All the details can be found in “News and Articles” and “Useful Resources” sections of this website. We are going to concentrate on the overall description, size, behavior, some specific characteristics of an animal and of course pictures and videos to visualize everything.
It is worth mentioning that V. melinus has an extremely small distribution in the wild and
V. Weijola reported concerns that overcollection by the pet trade had resulted in population collapse in some areas.
"When I visited the only exporter on Mangole in 2009 he stated that he had sent of 10 000 specimens (all from Mangole) since 1997, and that densities had fallen since then. That is really the only data we have and as far as I am concerned there is no evidence that the export is sustainable. It could be, but taking that many animals from a relatively small area is definitely going to tax the population locally." (V. Weijola)
This statement, along with the fact that virtually all captive breeding attempts have failed, brings to conclusion that V. melinus are not ideal captive animals and all the effort should be placed in conservation of the species and field research.
Male V. melinus by Andrey Luzan
Varanus melinus is a member of Indicus Complex species group,
which, with Prasinus species(tree monitors) group, forms subgenus Euprepiosaurus.
It is a midsized varanid ranging from 3 to 5 ft in length. Males are larger than females,
have heavier body builds and more pronounced bulging facial features.
Coloration is mostly yellow mixed with black in honeycomb-like pattern. Yellow is more dominant on the head and neck and gets darker closer to the end of the body. Underbody is predominantly yellow with no dark pigment or pattern. With age Quince monitor seems to become more yellow throughout the rest of the body.
Arboreal.The main characteristic of any arboreal/semi-arboreal monitor lizard is
“long”. Largely arboreal, especially at the sub-adult stages of their development V. melinus are characterized
by slender bodies, long and strong limbs, long and flexible digits with long and sharp claws. Tails are
prehensile and are about 60% of total animal length.
This animal feels more secure being up high and starts to trust their keeper faster if provided with necessary climbing features and heights. So the bond between the keeper and animal can be achieved faster, if animal has the comfort to retreat to safe and high grounds.
Claws should NOT be trimmed and clipped under any circumstances. It severely affects arboreal monitors ability to climb and reduces quality of their life.
Arboreal resting posture of V. melinus
Aquatic. As most other Indicus Complex monitors V. melinus are very aquatic. Their tails are muscular at base and laterally compressed to aid them in swimming. While swimming, their front and hind legs are compressed along the body and movement is only achieved by using the tail as propellant. They have also been seen sleeping under the water(documented, videos below) for amounts of time up to 50 minutes(undocumented claim).
Land dwelling and burrowing. In addition to their arboreal and aquatic proficiencies, Quince monitors spend significant amount time on the ground foraging and engaging in territorial, mating, nesting and other kinds of activities. They are very capable burrowers and will spend time in their burrows under certain circumstances.
V. melinus in Cincinnati Zoo
V. melinus burrow
In captivity. Potential owners beware! While viewing current keepers videos you may come to a conclusion, that keeping monitor lizard is easy. That is absolutely not true. I hope, after reading “What are Varanids” section, you understand, that monitor lizards are very capable tropical apex predators that require special housing and treatment. To be a successful varanid keeper you must be financially independent with reliable source of income. You have to dedicate great amounts of time to interact with and attend to your monitor lizard. You have to dedicate great amounts of money to fully provide for your lizard, including building, equipping and cleaning large enclosures, covering increased electricity bills, acquiring expensive whole diet food items and, finally, supporting expensive vet care. It should also be noted that it is hard to find veterinarian experienced with monitors. Now please apply everything I just said to a lifespan of a monitor lizard, which claimed to be of at least 20 years.
In captivity. Things to be concerned about. As most arboreal/semi-arboreal monitors Varanus melinus were always considered skittish. It is very important for potential owner to understand, that their animal may end up being shy, flighty, seclusive and aggressive. They are extremely hard to breed in captivity, with only two documented breeding at Cologne Zoo, Germany, and Bronx Zoo, US, and as such are not considered good captive animals. It is also very important to know, that, being very territorial, Quince monitors can’t be housed in the same enclosure with other animals, including conspecifics. Even decently sized to minimum rules enclosures are not considered large enough for multiple animals to assume their own territory and they will fight, inflicting serious injuries and potential death of an animal.
In captivity. Recent developments. It has been observed, however, that with recent advancements in husbandry, interaction and training Quince monitors have proven to be ones of the best monitor species to work with. They are small enough to provide proper necessary habitat to ensure their well being and overall health. And at the same time they are large enough to, at adult stages, present true monitor behavior and stand their ground. Properly kept and interacted with V. melinus almost never shows signs of aggression and is very easy to read and predict by experienced keeper. They are, however, not “lapdog” animals and (with few exceptions, as shown in the next video) don’t like to be handled.