One of my most favourite animals is the monitor, especially the Australian Goanna.
These reptiles fascinate me for a number of reasons. Firstly how well they have evolved to survive the harsh Australian environment. Goannas have wonderful tools, very powerful legs and feet with incredibly sharp talons. Goannas have excellent senses of scent with a forked snake like tongue that can pick up the slightest hint of both live prey and carrion. Their eyesight is probably as good as ours. Their brain has survival instincts honed by millions of years of surviving in the outback.
Goannas are very efficient hunters. They begin life hunting everything from insects to frogs, but by the time they are fully grown (over 2 metres: 6 feet) the goanna becomes one of the most feared predators of Australia. With the combination of razor sharp teeth and talons, goanna prey upon many ground living creatures, including snakes, other lizards, rabbits, rats and almost any mammal they can kill. Because the goanna is such an excellent tree climber, they also prey upon possums and almost any bird they can catch in the nest.
The crocodile has long been regarded as one of the most dangerous animals to man- handle, but from experience I believe the goanna to be far more deadly than a crocodile the same size. It is true a 6 foot croc is not to be tangled with, but the goanna has talons that can tear a man up. The talons also give the goanna a chance to hold onto a mans leg or arm while the lethal jaws do unbelievable damage.
The Featherdale wildlife park in Sydney has a goanna display and one day a shocking attack took place at the park. Two adult goanna males were fighting over territorial rights. A young keeper decided they may kill each other and jumped into the enclosure to try and separate the two combatants. The keeper grabbed the two goannas by the tail and tried to pull them apart, the largest male spun around and latched on the young mans arm with both front feet and its bacteria laden teeth. As the young man struggled with the reptile, the slashing teeth and talons literally ripped his arm to pieces.
After numerous operations and treatment for bacterial infection, the young keeper was finally released from hospital with over 120 stitches in his arm. Goanna bites carry a very real risk of bacteria infections that could be fatal to humans, because goannas do not only kill live prey but also readily feed on dead animals, especially road killed, rotting kangaroo carcasses. Lethal bacteria is driven deep into the wound by the talons and teeth and stopping blood poisoning may not always be possible with antibacterial drugs.
I have caught many goannas during my long career as a wildlife TV presenter and have had many encounters with these magnificent reptiles, but would like to warn people that these animals are to be left well alone. Do not try and hand feed, catch or corner a goanna. The ancient hunter may be quicker and stronger than you and the result could be disastrous.