Sudan Plated Lizard Care Sheet

Below is a Sudan Plated lizard care sheet based upon my experiences with this extraordinarily unique-looking lizard.

Sudan Plated Lizard
Gerrhosaurus major

Sudan plated lizards (Gerrhosaurus major) are fairly common within the reptile market, despite widespread confusion regarding their captive requirements. When kept properly, they can become rewarding reptiles that allow gentle handling.

Range: The Sudan, as the lizard’s name suggests, including adjacent African countries with savannah areas. Their range is actually more extensive than their common name suggests.

Physical Description: Their dorsal surface is covered with distinctly “plated” scales, while their underside is very smooth in comparison. The Sudan plated lizard has a base coloration comprised of varying degrees of brown, while their bellies and throats are a creamy white. These lizards have very stout necks, and unusually thick tails (a tail-whip would be painful). There is a lateral fold running the length of the lizard, which allows for temporary expansion.

Size: Sudan plated lizards generally attain a total length of approximately 18 to 25 inches (with even larger ones having been reported) so, coupled with heavy bodies, they are definitely not small reptiles. Unlike many other lizards, the Sudan plated lizard’s tail is not much longer than its snout-to-vent length. Hatchlings are approximately six inches in total length.

Behavior: Long considered one of the most tractable lizards, even as wild-caught adults, Sudan plated lizards rarely bite. In fact, I’ve never even heard of it happening. Somewhat shy by nature, they usually run and hide (in a blur) when startled or irritated. I’ve never witnessed anything resembling a threat display. Build trust with them through food offerings, and do not force handle them (this goes for all reptiles). Done correctly they can, and often do, become surprisingly tame. Read my lizard taming article for more information.

These lizards are diurnal, meaning they are active during the daylight hours. They can be seen foraging, basking, and even digging if given a deeper substrate that can hold a burrow.

Enclosure: These are larger lizards, so it is more challenging to give them an appropriate amount of space in which to move around. Ideally, give them the most space you can provide. The cage size should be around 48” in length, and perhaps 30” in width. As far as cage height, please keep in mind that burrowing is a big part of these lizards’ existence. Providing a deep substrate will allow them to dig burrows, which in turn will provide them with more security (this is key if you’re trying to tame a lizard).

Substrate-wise, use something that will hold a burrow as well as some moisture, such as a sand (not silica or manufactured types) and coco fiber mix at a ratio of 3:1, or even good ol’ dirt, at a depth of at least six inches, preferably even deeper.

Heating & Humidity: The cage should be situated in such a way that will allow the lizard to choose what temperature and humidity it prefers, and a deep substrate will go a long way in helping provide these options. The basking spot should have a surface temperature in the 125F-140F range (use a temp gun to calibrate). I recommend using a 45w halogen flood light bulb (not a spot light). You can move the bulb higher or lower to adjust the surface temperatures.

The Sudan (the largest country in Africa) is essentially split into two sections: the north (windy, dry, and hot), and the south (more rainfall, and hot). The Sudan plated lizard is more prolific in the southern region, so frequent mistings, using a substrate that holds moisture, and a heavy water bowl should provide adequate humidity levels. If in doubt, use a hygrometer to verify that the humidity is being maintained between 50% and 70%. Make sure you don’t use a screen top, as it will allow the rapid escape of humidity and heat. Contrary to what many reptile hobbyists believe, if your lizard is soaking in the water dish, it is in fact dehydrated.

Lighting: Halogen basking bulbs, complimented by a quality UV bulb, are recommended for Sudan Plated lizards. Reptile UV lighting is still new, and more research needs to be done not only to gauge its usefulness, but also to improve existing technology.

Feeding: Sudan plated lizards are primarily insectivorous in the wild, but will also ingest some fruits and flowers, so in that sense they are technically omnivores.

This Sudan Plated lizard care sheet just would not be complete without mentioning my personal experiences. The first Sudan plated lizard I ever kept was given to me as a present one very memorable Christmas back in the late 1980’s. The folks at the pet store told my mom that I should feed it dog food soaked in water (to soften it). Yes, the reptile hobby has come a
long way. Side note: it was the most docile lizard I have ever had the pleasure of owning. My dad and I built a large wooden cage with a glass front panel, and we installed a heat lamp that probably produced a hot spot far too hot for the lizard. Live and learn.

The perfect food for this lizard, if you were to ask me, is a roach such as Blaptica dubia (easy to breed, and they get to a meaty size). Large crickets and superworms will be devoured as well. Steer away from dog food [sarcasm intended]. I would feed mine select fruits and vegetables on occasion, but I don’t believe they require it. Some of them relish pinkie mice, but small adult mice are a bit tougher for some of them to swallow.

Some say they eat small lizards, but I’ve never tried this and
don’t recommend it. I do recommend dusting foods with a powdered supplement such as Rep-Cal with a vitamin D3 additive.

Breeding: Captive bred Sudan plated lizards are extremely rare, as very few reptile hobbyists are attempting to breed them. The two primary reasons for this are that their resale value is low, and the clutch sizes are small (2 to 6 eggs).

Price Range: $25 to $40 for wild caught specimens, which comprises essentially all available lizards. You can buy a Sudan Plated lizard for sale on our main website.

Species Notes: Unlike monitor lizards, their tails can be dropped and regenerated, so be careful. Their teeth are blunt. Also referred to as the Tawny plated lizard.

Summary: Despite initial shyness, Sudan plated lizards will often settle down to become interactive reptiles that rarely display signs of aggression. Their distinctive appearance is always a crowd-pleaser, and their varied diet allows for a variety of food items. Due to their size, they require a spacious cage and preferably deep substrate. Captive breeding is extraordinarily rare and should be encouraged.

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