Tree Goanna or Lace Monitor Varanus varius

Lizards of Victoria series


The Tree Goanna or Lace Monitor, Varanus varius, is Victoria’s largest lizard reaching a snout vent length of up to 760 mm, and a total length in excess of 2 m. It is very dark, usually with lighter yellowish banding.

Photo of Tree Goana or Lace Monitor, Varanus varius

Lace Monitor
Photographer: Peter Robertson. Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty. Ltd.

Distribution and habitat

It is quite common from far East Gippsland through to the Healesville area, and along the Murray river system and lakes of north western Victoria. It lives in holes in trees.


As one of its common names suggests, this is a semi-arboreal species. It is an opportunistic carnivore, feeding mainly on mammals, birds, reptiles and carrion. Females lay 4–14 eggs in a clutch, often in an active termite mound, where the constant temperature and humidity are ideal for incubation.

Further Reading

Cogger, H. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. Reed Books.

Wilson, S. & Swan, G. 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.

Comments (32)

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Helen Bohren 19 March, 2009 19:29
We had a goanna here in Merrijig Victoria today. It was as described and we were surprised as we have never seen them before. We wondered if the fires had displaced it. We would be interested in a reply.
Discovery Centre 20 March, 2009 15:25
Since the bushfires the Discovery Centre at Melbourne Museum has received a number of enquiries with people sighting uncommon occurrences of native animals in their area. So if there have been fires nearby it is not surprising that you have spotted a goanna.
Daryl Akers 18 November, 2009 03:02
A large 1.5 metre Tree Goanna / Lace Monitor (Varanus varius) was found in Melton South in November. Its appearance in a new housing development in Melton South is something of a mystery. I don't think they are normally found in this region
C. Koira 22 February, 2010 22:47
Had an extended encounter with two separate goanna's in excess of 2m near Renmark, providing great photos and footage.
A Griffiths 4 March, 2010 16:32
I saw one wander through my garden on Mt Toolebewong (next to Healesville) a couple of weeks back. 1.6 meters long. Very surprised to see it. I go camping a lot and never saw a goanna in Vic before.
J Parker-Bowles 9 September, 2010 12:16
I saw what I believe to be a Lace Monitor crossing the road from Bulla Cemetery to Woodlands Historic Park around November/December 2009. I've finally had the time to do some research which is how I came across this site. For what it's worth, we also had one in our backyard in Craigieburn about 27 years ago. It was a small town back then and we had plenty of wildlife around us. Also, there was no internet back then so we simply kept that moment for ourselves. What a joy it is to be able to share it with you now.
H Felder 22 December, 2010 21:23
We saw a Lace monitor in the Mansfield area on a property with a water front to lake Eildon. It was sunning itself on the top of a dead tree stump then later moved up a pine tree.
Iain Sedgman 15 January, 2012 15:00
They are commonly found around Mt Arapiles and the Natimuk District. I have seen them walk through a pea straw field, stop, elevate the head and then walk through it accurately towards what I thought was a dam but instead it oriented itself to a tree on the horizon. I have heard the noise they make on one occasion and it was a priviledge. They can hold their tale against gravity to ensure they stay fully aligned on a tree branch to make spotting more difficult. Amazing creatures.
Jan KIrby 16 January, 2012 15:33
In the last 12 months I have now seen 7 individual goannas (lace monitors)on our property. The first was huge - easily 1.5m with a massive head and girth on the road. The others have been at least 1m in length. I have just had one visit me this afternoon in our "compost heap" where I leave the food out for our chooks. It's at the base of a massive ironbark tree (In Heathcote, VIC) and I was priviliged to watch him for almost an hour and took some great pics. He climbed the tree and rested before coming down again. I was able to get within 4 foot of him but he was not happy and puffed up his throat/head and grunted. I am so thrilled to have seen him up so close (I only noticed him because our alpaca let me know he was there). Since the drought broke we have had a lot of these fantastic creatures around, no doubt partly surviving on my chook eggs and chicks!!
Dawn 18 March, 2012 20:29
we saw one today in St Andrews North/Kinglake region. Spectacular sight!
Christopher Zadow 21 November, 2012 11:55
Just spotted a pair about a mile from the wimmera river at Arkona at the end of Klinge road. Have seen about eight in the last two months. Would these ones be a breeding pair? One a big fella as and the other a lot smaller. Have photo's.
Discovery Centre 21 November, 2012 12:02
Hi Christopher, if you'd like to send us your photos, you can load them through our online identification service and we'll do our best!
Warwick Frost 19 January, 2013 17:36
I saw one about 1.6m yesterday. On the side of the South Gippsland Hwy, north of Yarram. I never knew we had Goannas that big!
Anne-Marie Dunkley 13 March, 2013 23:03
My daughter lives in Willow Grove (West Gippsland). Recently she was startled by what she believes was a goanna around 1.8m long, black and very wide. It climbed very quickly up a tall tree where she took a couple of photos of it, but the photos are not very clear. We didn't realise they grew this big!
anthony adamo 28 April, 2013 19:05
1970 at the age off seven, behind the old service station, at carrajung south vic. there was a dam. i wase fishing for tadpoles and my 4 year old sister, screemed and pionted at the 10 foot bank, were a 3m long goanna stoud . i could not beleve my wonted to eat my sister,so i placed my sister on my back, and walked throw the dam. my sister ran home, i stood for 5 min looking at this giant goanna,it was to big to cliam trees.
Harry 27 January, 2014 16:54
We saw a Lace Monitor today Australia Day 2104 in the Bunyip Stare Park Victoria. Length was 1.5m and saw him close up as we disturbed him and he ran about 3 meters up the nearest tree.
Marg 26 October, 2014 16:54
There was a big goanna in the school ground of Heathcote Primary School on Friday 24th. Estimated to be 1.5m long.
Kerrie gray 8 January, 2015 13:02
Saw a beautiful big goanna approx.1.5 metres, wander across heathcote rochester rd bonn today. As i pulled out of my driveway, an oncoming ute has almost stopped to allow him to cross the road. We have a fairly well treed 20 acres and he climbed up and sat ther quite happy, had to keep moving so lost track of him. So lucky, we have had roos of course, an echidna, an emu and amazing birdlife
Dale thomson 4 April, 2015 21:12
very surprised to see a 60cm lace monitor sunning itself on a rock in Brisbane Ranges Anakie Gorge today. Never seen one down here before
gregH 7 May, 2015 09:41
Hi, I am searching for sound files of lace monitor , fruitless so far, any leads?
Sue Spicner 5 November, 2015 15:22
We are staying on the Murray River at Merbein .There are two tree goanna so here and come in everyday.They are amazing
Will Norden 17 December, 2015 21:43
Lace monitor sighted today on ground at Leongatha Golf Club. Approx 1 1/2 metres. Photo available.
Mark Hamilton 28 December, 2015 19:54
Saw a nice little lace monitor about a metre in length crossing the road today, 28-12-15, before climbing a tree at Aysons Reserve Burnewang between Elmore and Echuca.
Horst Schmidt 23 January, 2016 18:36
My wife and I went for a picknick today (23/Han/2016. to the upper Yarra reservoir After we went for a walk. Along one of the tracks we spotted a dead kangaroo on the side . Crawling around it and starting to eat from it was a Goanna about 1.5m long. We stood watched it forv a time and then moved on. Passing it at about 5m distance. At the moment when we where exact opposite, I looked to us and his tongue came out and wiggled. We stood there and suddenly wit a high speed it charged towards us. My wife started to point to it with her umbrella and I started to kick in its direction. When it was about 50cm in front of us, it suddenly turned and run off in to some bushes not far away. There it was still looking towards us. We decided it was time to move fast. This was definitely unexpected and something to tell our grand children Regards, Horst
Joanne 1 March, 2016 17:45
Was surprised to see a goanna beside the Yarra , on the Yarra Main Trail in Abbotsford today.
Adam 9 March, 2016 19:23
Saw a large monitor today while driving between Sale and Seaspray, East Gippsland (pretty sure it was Seaspray Rd). Not sure how big exactly as it turned and ran into bushes as I approached in my car, but definitely over a metre. Maybe close to 2m. Closest I got was 4-5m away before it completely disappeared. Not sure if it was a lace monitor as it was dark grey with only prominent colouring being white tip and 2 white stripes at very end of tail. I'm guessing it is just a rather average monitor but havent found any photos that look like it. Would love if anyone could tell me what type it was exactly. Sorry no photos either
Ron czisz 27 March, 2016 11:49
Lace monitors are not uncommon on our acreage at Bellingen, northern NSW,
Vikki evenden 13 November, 2016 12:26
I live on the edge of the little desert at Wail and are visited by the beautiful reptiles as soon as the weather warms . My son has named the huge one the "Regulator" as he eats my poor peacocks eggs and her chicks if any get to hatch . We can tell when one is near the house as all the native birds go beserk , funny to watch them swoop and annoy him . Once I watched my 3 Guinea fowl escort him off our block , they walked in a row behind him . Also my children won't let me have chooks anymore because the goannas kill them . I watched in horror as a goanna attacked the crap out of my dear, gentle little silkies . Poor dears die after about 3-4 days. I understand I'm in their area not them in mine so that's just the way it goes , all is good . Really would like to know about how old our Regulator might be , he is about 2m . Bloody magnificent !
Bernie 25 December, 2016 06:53
Had one moving from tree to tree on our property in Nowa Nowa yesterday. Got some great pictures. He left after being swooped by more 'locals'. He was close to 2 metres long and not too bothered by us at all.
Sue Young 22 January, 2017 23:27
I took photographs of a large Lace Monitor just out of Wartook in the Grampians the other day, i can provide one if necessary. It was in very good condition.
Michael Crabtree 9 March, 2017 22:29
Had a SOS from a friend who lives just east of Natimuk today She had a young lace monitor stuck in her wood heater it had come down the chimney and was looking at her from above baffle plate looking a little like a snake with only is head showing it was wimmera riverreleased to head back towards the
Judy Mundy 19 March, 2017 07:37
We had a lace monitor on our property just outside Heathcote in December. He or she walked casually to a tree and sat on the side of the tree in the sun for ages before disappearing into the hollow.
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