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Huge, 'Godzilla-like' monitor lizard spotted in California

Animal control officers captured a large monitor lizard that was wandering through a condo complex in Riverside, Calif. Despite its name, the monitor lizard is not affiliated with this publication.

By CSMonitor.com / January 26, 2011

This image provided by Riverside County Animal Services shows an Animal Services officer holding a 5-foot long black-throated monitor lizard that animal control officers found wandering around a condo complex in the city of Riverside, Calif., Tuesday.

Riverside County Animal Services/AP

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A gigantic radioactive lizard rampaged through Riverside, Calif, Tuesday, stomping buildings, pulling spitting high-tension wires down, and battling a giant lepidopteran.

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Or at least that's what animal control officer Jenny Selter expected when she arrived at the condo complex, responding to reports of a monstrous reptile.

"The residents were freaking out because here's the Godzilla-like creature walking down the sidewalk," a spokesman for the Riverside County Animal Services told the Associated Press.

The reptile turned out to be a five-foot long monitor lizard, a genus that is native to vast areas across Africa, Asia, and Australia. This particular species of black-throated lizard is native to southern Africa (which is probably fortunate, as South Africa is the only nuclear power that denies having conducted nuclear tests).

Most monitor lizards are carnivores that hunt live prey. Members of this genus are also highly intelligent, at least for reptiles. One study of white-throated monitors found that the lizards are able to count to six.

Monitor lizards are legal to keep as pets in California. The animal control officers speculate that this particular lizard escaped from its owner's home.

Selter was able to capture the monitor lizard with the help of a police officer. Animal services staff told the AP that the lizard was docile. The staff was able to walk the lizard around without it hissing, snapping, or obliterating anything with its atomic breath.

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