A 5-foot speckled Asian water monitor has become a leading attraction at the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, IL - and it's all thanks to Nicolas Cage.

The 49-year-old actor and collector of unusual things (he once outbid Leonardo DiCaprio on a $276,000 T-Rex skull) has a special place in his heart for reptiles. Unfortunately, due in large part to an increasingly demanding filming schedule (a quick look shows 7 films in pre-production), he's been forced to give up some for adoption. “Nicolas loves reptiles, he’s passionate about reptiles. But with his busy schedule, he had too many animals to take care,” Rob Carmichael, curator of the Wildlife Discovery Center, told WLSAM.

Carmichael says a mutual friend in the zoo business suggested that Cage should donate his five-year-old monitor lizard "Michael" to the sanctuary. The actor apparently raised him from a baby and was interested in finding him a good, permanent home. In early April, a large overnight FedEx box containing the lizard arrived - and he's been a hit ever since. 

“Nicolas did a really nice job," added Carmichael. "He had him around people at an early age. He got him used to being handled and being around different people.”

Officials at Wildlife Discovery Center, who plan on using Michael in educational programs, said their new celebrity will soon move into a large 30-by-10-foot outdoor cage.

This isn't the first time Nicolas Cage has had to give up his pets for adoption. Back in 2008, he was nearly sued after neighbors discovered that he was keeping two highly-venomous cobras in his home

"The cobras were called Moby and Sheba and I kept them in my house in Hollywood for about three years," he said. "I had to keep the antidote to their poison as well because if one of those guys bit you then you had 15 minutes before the curtains closed. I loved them. I'd watch them for hours."

"I happened to mention them on 'The Late Show With David Letterman' and then it became a big neighborhood problem. They threatened to sue me unless I got rid of them. I could see their point. I resolved the issue by giving the snakes to a zoo."

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Nicholas Cage donates pet monitor lizard to animal sanctuary
Actor, apparently a collector of reptiles, decided to part ways with the lizard due to his busy schedule.