Varanus griseus

Desert monitor

For Information regarding Varanus caspius in Africa, please see this page : Varanus griseus 

TAXONOMY: This species was elevated from subspecies level (Varanus griseus griseus) on Morphological and genetic grounds, alongside chorological distribution patterns in parapatric speciation with Varanus nesterovi and Varanus caspius (Böhme et al 2023).

DISTRIBUTION: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Jordan , Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, OmanQatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen (see Auliya & Koch 2020)

RED LIST STATUS: Least Concern (LC) in 2016

CITES: Appendix I



General. – Increase and intensification of agriculture and livestock farming, trade for varying purposes (medicine, decor, food, pets, leather), urbanization.

Israel. – Expansion and urbanization of the greater metropolitan area of Tel Aviv (collectively called – Gush Dan) has decimated the distribution area of V. griseus in the coastal plain of Israel to the extent that they have become extinct in many places, however several small and isolated populations remain in the southern parts of the Coastal Plain. In the Arava Valley (southern Israel) several populations are continuously being threatened by the expansion of agricultural and touristic projects. In addition, populations in the Arava valley are exposed to an extremely harsh regional climate with an annual precipitation of < 50 mm.  Populations in the southern Jordan Valley are threatened by extensive agricultural projects.

Another threat (impact on populations is unknown) known for the last 5 years in areas of the Negev desert are 5-10 m deep holes dug by various people. Several of these holes were old unused sewer sinkholes dug by the Israeli Army during the last ca. 70 years, but many other holes were dug by the Nabataeans (nomadic Bedouin tribes), some of them as early as the 4th century BCE. Several individual monitors have been falling into these holes every single year and were rescued by rangers of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA).

Saudi Arabia. – Increase of the constuction of highways has led to frequent road-kills of V. griseus (Al-Shammari 2012).

UAE. – Increasing aridity due to climate change; habitat modification due to development projects; predation risk by feral species such as dogs and cats in urbanized habitats.


General. – Assess the impact of the varying threats on local populations; a socio-economic study resulting in awareness programs; reassess the taxonomic status of this species-complex.

UAE. – Further distribution studies; more information on ecology, behavior, foraging patterns, etc.


Israel. – It is planned to gather data related to the rescue missions (as described above), and to carry out a supplementary field study of the monitors in that area.

UAE. – Species is monitored as part of wildlife baseline surveys.

References referred to:

  • Al-Shammari AM (2012) Additional records of lizards in Ha’il Province, Saudi Arabia. Russian Journal of Herpetology 19: 287-291.
  • Böhme, Wolfgang & Ahmed, Soran & Al-Sheikhly, Omar & Ararat, Korsh & Auer, Markus & Khudur, Farhad & Langner, Christian. (2023). DESERT MONITOR LIZARDS (SQUAMATA: VARANIDAE: Varanus: Psammosaurus) FROM THE MIDDLE EAST: FURTHER RECORDS OF NESTEROV’S DESERT MONITOR, Varanus (P.) nesterovi BÖHME, EHRLICH, MILTO, ORLOV ET SCHOLZ, 2015, FROM IRAQ, AND ADJACENT LOCALITIES OF Varanus (P.) g. griseus (DAUDIN, 1803) AND Varanus (P.) g. caspius (EICHWALD, 1831), WITH COMMENTS ON BIOGEOGRAPHY AND TAXONOMY. Russian Journal of Herpetology. Vol. 30. 518 – 528. 10.30906/1026-2296-2023-30-6-518-528.

Adult Varanus griseus, Negev desert, Israel © Matthieu Berroneau

Adult Varanus griseus, protected areas within Abu Dhabi emirate, UAE © Robert Gubiani

Adult Varanus griseus, Al Zulfi, central Saudia Arabia © Mansur Al-Fahad

Adult Varanus griseus, Negev desert, Israel © Matthieu Berroneau

Sub-adult Varanus griseus, Kuwait © A. Ragab