Matobosaurus (Gerrhosaurus) validus
Surprisingly for such a large reptile, the Giant Plated Lizard is a rather shy and retiring creature. It is in fact the third largest lizard in South Africa (the Nile and Rock Monitors being the two biggest) and grows to a length of up to 75cm, excluding the considerably lengthy tail.
Giant Plated Lizards live in loosely associated groups on rocky outcrops in savanna environs, where it makes good use of crags and crevices in the boulders to hide in – even to the point of inflating its body to jam itself firmly in and thus preventing predators from extracting it. Females lay clutches of 2-5 eggs in rock crevices during the mid-summer. These lizards follow an omnivorous diet that includes leaves, flowers and fruit, insects, spiders and scorpions, amphibians and other reptiles up to the size of baby tortoises.
The conservation status of the Giant Plated Lizard hasn’t been assessed by the IUCN as yet, but it is generally common in suitable habitat throughout its range, which extends over Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, eSwatini (Swaziland), Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and the South African provinces of Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the extreme north of Kwazulu-Natal.