A cautionary tale: you, your Green Tree Monitor, and a vet

Unfortunately our first Green Tree Monitor transaction went like most likely do – we received an animal that was underweight, dehydrated, and stressed. She was likely wild-caught, though we thought we were getting a captive bred or captive hatched animal.

This is a cautionary tale about what you should expect if you decide to take on buying a Green Tree Monitor (Varanus prasinus).

Our Echo was in really rough shape, and we were shocked at her condition. We found a somewhat-local (1 hour drive…each way!) exotics vet who we shared photos with. Did I mention we were all quite shocked? Here’s what our girl Echo looked like when we got her:

It was just shocking.

We quickly decided we were all in on Echo; she was not going to survive a return shipment, so we were going to do everything we could to make sure she got the best care possible to maximize her probability of surviving.

Our vet thought for sure she was going to die. We were having trouble getting her to eat. She took one male dubia, but refused more. She wouldn’t hunt crickets. She showed no interest in Repashy meat pie. She toyed with a frozen/thawed shrimp, but left it. But she did like frozen/thawed mice. So mice it was. Since we were at home on summer break during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, we could monitor her throughout the day and gauge her improvement hour by hour. We watched her behavior, altered the viv at night, added plants, and relocated feeding and watering stations. We did what we could to make her comfortable, and move food to where she was spending her time.

Our exotics vet was amazing. He consulted with us over the phone, free of charge, and developed a care plan for Echo. This cooperative effort, looking over photos, providing advice, reaching out to his zoo contacts in Houston…all this to stabilize our Echo.

Weeks passed and she SLOWLY improved. She put on weight, then pooped out this:

Yuck! Tape worms!

Now that she was stable, it was off to the vet for an official visit. She got an exam, and she was put on a deworming regiment. Our vet was truly amazed at her transformation.

None of us expected her to bounce back, but she pulled it off! This was a great outcome, but it’s likely not the typical result with a Green Tree Monitor. So what can you take away from all this?

  • have a local exotics vet ready before you purchase a tree monitor.
  • know that you are likely buying a wild caught animal if you are not buying directly from an established breeder.
  • expect your animal to be dehydrated when you get her (though not as extreme as this case)
  • your animal likely will have worms, and could crash during a stressful shipping experience.
  • be ready with a variety of foods – we threw everything we could at Echo and found what she would eat and offered that until she was stable. Then we moved to vary her diet.
  • these are extremely rewarding animals, but they require a massive investment. We were absolutely sickened at the thought of losing her, and we were willing to drive her an hour each way for medical attention, and just sit in a room with her all day in shifts to make sure she got what she needed.

Here’s Echo not long after treatment. This was about 2-3 months after the original photos posted above. Quite the transformation!