Christmas Surprise

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When I was twelve, not unlike any other Christmas morning, we jumped out of bed and raced to open presents from under the tree. Unbeknownst to us, while the door had been left open the previous day, a goanna had moseyed inside looking for a cool spot to escape the summer heat. After a few presents had been handed out, we discovered the unexpected guest nestled amongst the pile. We then had the difficult job of removing the goanna from his cosy spot, knowing that goannas tend to have quite the temper. With the use of a particularly long handled broom, dad swept the goanna outside. All was well until he realised he would not be allowed back in to his cool hiding place. He proceeded to attack, reared and running at us, relentlessly fighting for his territory. We managed to keep him at bay while the doors were slammed shut. He eventually got the hint, and reluctantly wandered off in search of a new refuge.

Unlike this particular feisty individual, Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes) don’t typically reside in human housing. This type of goanna can be found right across the northern part of Australia and down the east coast as far south as about Brisbane and typically reach a total length of 130 to 160 cm, making it one of the largest goanna species in Australia. Their colour is variable usually with bright yellow markings including spots on a grey background, sometimes with a banded tail.

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We weren’t quick enough to get a photo that day of him nestled under the tree, unfortunately.


The goanna’s diet ranges from mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and insects.  They have significantly benefited from the introduction of rabbits; using their burrows as shelter as well as snacking on the occupants. According to fossil records, the genus, Varanus, is from the Cretaceous period (about 100 million years ago). The goanna is a relatively common species which has few predators but often succumbs to vehicle strikes. Further ongoing study into goanna species is suggesting that they are in fact venomous, instead of the previous thought that they carried toxic bacteria in their mouths.

Good thing we didn’t find that out ourselves after that eventful Christmas morning. It’s safe to say we now keep all doors and windows firmly shut.

By Julia Proud, BOOBOOK Technical Assistant

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