Rock monitor's fight for survival after multiple gunshots and dog attack

The rock monitor that was shot at and attacked by a dog is not recovering. Picture: Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital

The rock monitor that was shot at and attacked by a dog is not recovering. Picture: Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital

Published May 21, 2024


Last week, the Parys SPCA received a call from a concerned citizen requesting assistance after discovering that her dog may have attacked a rock monitor (Varanus albigularis). After the SPCA stabilised the monitor at their own facility, the animal was taken to the Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital for further examination and treatment.

At the hospital, Dr Karin Lourens examined the reptile and found it to be extremely lethargic, dehydrated, and starving, prompting immediate suspicion that the dog attack was secondary to a more severe issue.

“Upon stabilising the monitor with intravenous fluids, radiographs were taken, revealing three projectiles lodged in its body. The reptile had been shot twice with a pellet gun, with pellets visible in its tail, and once with a 22 calibre bullet in its neck. The cumulative injuries likely weakened the monitor, making it an easy target for the dog,” Lourens said.

Despite the severity of the injuries, all projectiles were embedded in muscle tissue and did not require removal. The monitor's body will encapsulate such foreign objects, preventing lead absorption unless ingested or lodged in bone marrow.

Lourens shared that the “monitor's recovery has been remarkable. Within 24 hours of receiving fluids, it showed significant improvement. By the fourth day, it was almost unrecognisable from its initial condition and had begun eating independently, indicating a positive prognosis for full recovery”.

She stressed the importance of swift veterinary care for injured wildlife and urged the public to utilise their 24-hour emergency services for such cases.

Picture: Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital

Although the monitor may have been shot weeks ago, Lourens believes that “it is likely to have been shot in the Parys area, as it would not have been able to move over a long distance with those injuries”.

Monitors, including rock monitors, are relatives of the Komodo dragon and play a crucial role in the ecosystem. As protected species, harming them is a contravention of South African law.

The hospital encourages public support and donations to aid in the conservation and care of these vital creatures. For more information or to make a donation, visit Johannesburg Wildlife Vet.

The Parys SPCA urges the public to share any information regarding the shooting of the monitor with their investigators via email at [email protected] or via WhatsApp at +27 72 894406