Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is now the third Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institution to have a perentie, varanus giganteus, the largest monitor or goanna lizard native to Australia. Ngintaka, pronounced nin-taka, is a male perentie who can be seen inthe Zoo’s Desert Dome.
The perentie, which means “giant lizard spirit”in Australian Aboriginal mythology,is the fourth largest lizard species in the world commonly reaching more than eight feet in length. They can be found living in arid regions ranging from Queensland to coastal Western Australia, typically around rocky hills and outcrops. The lizard uses its powerful front legs and claws to create extensive burrows, which oftenhave several escape exits.
Perenties are very fast runners,which makes them efficientpredators.Theirdietconsistsmainly ofother lizards, turtle eggs, insects, birdsand small mammals. When feeling threatened, thelizard willdistend a large neck pouch and dispela rattling hiss.Itspowerful bite and whip-like tail are also used as defense tools.
Female perenties will lay six to teneggs in a burrow, usually beneath a boulder or other large objects. The eggs hatch around two to three months later.Very little information is currently known about the species. They are listed as “Data Deficient”by the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Other AZA zoos that have the perentie are the Dallas Zoo and the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens.