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Wildlife in Tropical North Australia: Walking With a Lace Monitor

July 04, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 187

'Lizzie' posed for a photograph taken by me one day as she smelled out the meaty leftovers of the Kookaburras' dinner. When she climbed onto the birds' feeding perch, her full length was revealed.

My partner made the birds' perch from a saw bench measuring the standard one metre or 39 and-a-half inches. Her beautifully patterned body draped along the table-top, her snout flicking the tongue at one end, Lizzie's tail dangled down the other, ending only inches from the brick paving below.

The tongue of a Goanna is forked, like a snake's and just as sensitive to smell. Goannas use their strong claws for digging out small prey, such as grubs and worms in the leaf litter, tearing apart the carcasses of dead animals, such as wallabies and bandicoots, catching larger prey such as injured birds or smaller lizards, or for climbing trees.

Those claws are tipped by fearsome talons.

I was first alerted to Monitor presence in our domain by what sounded like giant fingernails tapping on the floorboards of our deck. Stepping outside, I saw an enormous lizard making its way to the bowl of dry cat food I'd left near the door. As I watched in fascinated silence, the lizard made a leisurely snack before turning, its long tail trailing like the wake of a cruise liner, to leave the way it came.

Somehow, I felt compelled to follow and was swept by a sense of privilege when the placid animal allowed me to walk alongside until we reached the edge of the rainforest belt bordering our back garden. Still unruffled by my enraptured attention, the Monitor ambled off, swallowed by the green ocean of leaves and vines.

Lizzie's ancestor was the owner of this hilltop territory at the time we built our home. I photographed that Monitor one day, as it clung half-way up a tall gum-tree, hissing at our young tomcat who hissed back just as fiercely from safe ground. The cat would have made hardly a mouthful for that giant lizard but it would have been a tough morsel to swallow.

Another day, I watched as the Monitor waddled along the edge of our back garden, trailed by our two kittens, which were playing tag with the tip of its powerful tail. Perhaps the little cats were beneath the lizard's notice but I like to think she was just as amused as I was. When I put an end to the kittens' antics and carried them inside, the lizard merely flicked her tongue in a gesture of dismissal to us all.

Dorothy Gauvin is the author of Conlan's Luck, An Epic Story of the Shearers' War. This little-known uprising of the 1890s has been called a 'Secret Civil War.' Scholarly texts have been published about this seminal and colourful period of Australian history, but Conlan's Luck seems to be the only novel yet published on the subject. Check out Dorothy's blog on the mystery,history and wildlife of Australia at http://www.bestbooksfor.com/oz-stories

Source: EzineArticles
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