The Central Asian gray monitor (Varanus griseus caspius) is one of the subspecies of the gray monitor. It is the largest lizard of the fauna of Central Asia. Turkmens often call it “zem-zem”. This species is found almost throughout the entire territory of Turkmenistan.
The Central Asian gray monitor is the largest subspecies of the gray monitor. Large individuals can reach a mass of 3-3.5 kg and a length of 1.5 m. Of these, about 60 cm is the body length and 90 cm is the tail. Males of this species are usually longer than females. The legs are characteristically short. The tail is rounded in cross-section at the base and somewhat laterally compressed in the rear.
The Central Asian gray monitor lizard lives in deserts and semi-deserts, mainly on fixed and semi-fixed sand, less often on clay soils. It is found in river valleys, foothills, ravines, and tugai thickets. These lizards avoid areas with dense vegetation, but sometimes visit sparse forested areas. As a rule, the gray monitor lizard avoids human presence.
The gray monitor lizard uses burrows of rodents, birds, turtles and other animals as shelters. If necessary, he expands and deepens them, which is especially true in clay deserts, where it can be difficult for a monitor lizard to dig holes on its own. In the sandy desert, Central Asian gray monitor lizards can dig their own burrows from 3-4 to 5 m deep and up to 50-120 cm deep. In abandoned settlements they often inhabit cracks in adobe houses.
The gray monitor lizard is a predator whose diet includes mainly small mammals and reptiles, including young turtles, poisonous snakes, rodents, lagomorphs and hedgehogs, as well as carrion, various insects and arachnids. Each monitor lizard has its own personal hunting area. Typically, 2-3 lizards live per 1 km², but in some places rich in prey in Turkmenistan, a density of 9-12 individuals per km² is noted.