Lifespan: 15-20 years
Wild Diet: Omnivorous. Mostly leaves and fruit, but also invertebrates and sometimes small lizards.
Zoo Diet: Vegetarian mix with fruit and vitamins.
Predators: Prey to snakes and small mammals
IUCN Status: Not Evaluated
Habitat/Range: Found in sub-saharan grasslands in eastern and southeastern Africa.
Characteristics: Body (about 14 to 24 in. long) is flattened horizontally which allows it to slip into crevasses easily in order to hide and rest. Yellow/brown on the upper surface. Belly is dark brown with chin and throat usually yellow or cream. A large, stout plated lizard with a cylindrical body. A short somewhat triangular head covered with large rough scales or plates, large eyes, and a tail that is usually twice the length of its body. Although it has a solid body, it has smaller legs than iguanas giving the limbs a delicate appearance. Scales on back have pronounced keels, and the belly scales are arranged in ten rows. There are deep grooves that run the length of the body which are low on its sides and contain skin not covered with plated scales. These grooves function as expansion joints for a female carrying eggs or for distension after a meal.
Behavior: Lives in underground tunnels which it will sometimes share with a snake or Dwarf mongoose. Gets most of its water from food. Body as well as the soles of the feet are also covered with hard plates that act as protection. Uses legs for digging, and running. Spends a great deal of time basking in the sun, but will also utilize burrows and termite mounds to avoid the sun. Considered a shy animal, though males will sometimes attack one another for territory claims. Will not usually bite when threatened, would rather use plated tail in defense. As an escape tactic, will run a distance than suddenly halt with its tail raised to confuse pursuer. Will also wedge itself into a crevice or dig a burrow to escape predators. Has an ability to arch its back and dig in with claws making it impossible to remove lizard from its burrow without injuring it. Also thought to fill body with air which will actually wedge it inside a crevice and not allow predator to pull it out.
Reproduction: Female usually lays two but is able to lay up to four large eggs in damp soil, in crevasses or hollows among the rocks. Eggs take three to four months to hatch. Hatchlings are 4-6 in. in length and can already be handled like adults. Lifespan 15-20 yrs.
Conservation: Widely distributed throughout their range. Current populations in the wild are stable.