Omnivore. Arthropods (beetles, centipedes, millipedes, scorpions), ground-dwelling birds, small mammals, reptiles, toads, eggs and carrion. Adults also consume large quantities of snails as their teeth that are quite blunt and their jaw has evolved to put maximum leverage at the back of the jaw to crush snail shells.
Habitat: Grasslands, agricultural areas within the savannah belt.
Incubation: 20-50 eggs, 5-6 months
Social structure: Solitary
Lifespan: 12 under human care
IUCN Status: Least concern
Estimated population in the wild: Unknown
Threats: Hunted for food and for use in traditional medicine, heavily exploited for the skin and pet trade (more than 100,000 individuals are exported every year).
Did you know that:
- The Latin name exanthematicus derives from the Greek word exanthem , meaning an eruption or blister of the skin and was given due to the large bumpy scales on their skin.
- Their tongue is snake-like and blue in color.
- Males are very territorial and will defend their territory very aggressively. They display their aggression by making a loud hissing sound and trashing their tail.
- They have evolved a way to eat poisonous millipedes. They rub their chin on the millipede for up to fifteen minutes before eating it. This way they avoid the distasteful fluid that the millipede excretes in its defense.