Walter was not the human owner of Walter's World of Pets, but was an Asian water monitor lizard. He grew to be very large, and by water monitor standards, was quite the handsome dude!
Walter lived in the original Walter's World of Pets store location, in a special naturalized enclosure with a large window where all the store's visitors could watch him. Feeding time was a weekly special event.
Walter was the centerpiece of Walter's World of Pets, a realm which would eventually include some of the most exotic pets to be found in West Texas. With widely interesting and exotic animals in the "store family," Walter reigned supreme as the "big kahuna," and the store was indeed his world.
Walter lived for many years as the store's mascot and namesake, and while he is no longer with us, his role in our shop will always be a part of our history. His legacy, as one-time star of our store's special exhibit, lives on in The Jungle, our expanded feature with many wild and exotic inhabitants. Walter would be right at home!
Water monitors are indigenous to Asia, with a broad range throughout Indonesia, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indochina, India and into neighborhing areas such as the Phillipines. Water monitors are common in much of their range, and rank as one of Asia's largest lizards—they can reach a total length (nose to tail) of over 6 feet. Their coloring is usually a charcoal to brownish gray to black, mixed with mottled and patterned creamy yellow.
These lizards are very stout, with powerful legs, tipped with strong claws. They are good swimmers and good climbers, readily able to climb rocks and trees.
Like all monitors, they have a long, forked tongue with which they sample the air around them for smells. (Of note, the monitor lizards are the only lizards that have forked tongues, like snakes.) They also live a considerable time, up to 25 to 30 years in some cases.
They typically live in tropical forests and related hot, humid locales, usually in or near swamps, and rarely very far from water (hence their name). They are very commonly found along the banks of rivers and in mangroves, and even venture occasionally into grasslands and cultivated land.
Water Monitors are predators and will eat small mammals, insects, bird and crocodile eggs, crabs, mollusks, fish and will scavenge on carrion. They will often consume prey relatively large in comparison to their own size.
After a large meal, they may go for a long while (up to several weeks) without feeding again.
Order: Squamata (Sauria)
Common Name: Water Monitor
Monitor lizards populate several regions of the Earth, and share the common trait of often being quite large.
For instance, Asian water monitors can reach lengths of well over 6 feet (specimens reaching over 9 feet in total length have been reported). Species which live in Australia (known as "Goannas") can also grow quite large, and exhibit a bit more diversity in size. The largest living reptile on Earth, the famed Kimodo Dragon found in Indonesia, is a monitor lizard.
Within their territories, monitors usually have a wide range and come in a variety of sizes, colors and habits, with a few being rather small, and others being quite large as described above. They are also all carnivorous, with a few species known to also eat fruit.
There are several prominent Water Monitor subspecies, including:
Interesting note: Previously, "Water Monitors" were all grouped together as subspecies of Veranus salvator, but scientist now recognize several of them as their own species.
Some prominent species of Australian monitors include:
Like many animals, destruction of habitat is a huge concern for the livelihood of many monitors in the wild.