Tree Goanna

Varanus varius

Click to view a larger image. Click to view a larger image. reptile reptile

Tree Goanna
Image: Peter Robertson
Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Museum specimen featured in the Wild exhibition
Source: Museum Victoria

Type: reptile

Tree Goanna Tree Goanna
Image: Peter Robertson
Source: Wildlife Profiles Pty Ltd

Victorian Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Tree Goannas enjoy secure conservation status. They are widespread and have adapted to many different environments.



Tree Goannas are carnivores.

They eat insects, lizards, mammals, nestling birds and carrion.


Tree Goanna relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a cat and a woman.

up to 20 kg
1.5–2 m

Amazing Tree Goannas

Tree Goannas, also known as Lace Monitors, are powerful tree-climbers and fierce predators of small animals. They have strong, sturdy limbs and large claws to help them climb, and sharp teeth to catch and hold their prey.

Being reptiles, Tree Goannas are unable to moderate their own body temperature, instead relying on the sun and the ambient temperature. They are sluggish in winter, feeding little and rarely leaving their burrows. On warm days they bask in the sun to warm up. Their dark colour helps them absorb heat.

These lizards belong to a group called monitors. Monitors detect their prey with a special sense organ in the roof of their mouths called Jacobson’s organ. By flicking their long forked tongue out of their mouths, they transmit scent molecules to this organ. They forage for food in trees and on the ground.

Male Tree Goannas fight over females in behaviour known as ritual combat. They rise up on their hindlimbs and try to overpower one another, sometimes rolling over and over while wrestling. The losing male usually receives a nasty bite, while the winning male mates with the female.

Female Tree Goannas lay 4–14 leathery-shelled eggs in termite mounds. After 6–8 weeks, females may return to their eggs to excavate the hatchlings. They receive no further care from their mother.

Did You Know?

Tree Goannas

  • are Victoria’s largest lizards
  • lay their eggs in termite mounds
  • use their forked tongues to detect prey


Tree Goannas are found along the east coast of Australia. They live in a range of habitats including open forest and coastal plains.


Other animals from the Victorian Dry Forest

Squirrel GliderLittle Forest BatRegent Honeyeater