Sunday, January 8, 2012

'It looks like a Komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River

'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
STOMPer Elise saw a creature that looked like a 'komodo dragon' swimming in Kallang Reservoir. The animal, which is probably a huge monitor lizard, has also been seen in other parts of Singapore.

Said the STOMPer:

"Last Thursday while we were walking our dog along Kallang Reservoir (near Costa Rhu Condo), we noticed a huge creature swimming in the water.

"After looking at the pictures taken by a friend of ours, we believe this is a Komodo Dragon.

"How did it get to Kallang Reservoir? As the reservoir is daily used for boating and other water activities, we thought we should report this."
'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River
'It looks like a komodo dragon': Huge monitor lizard spotted in Kallang River

Unfortunately, this is not the first time someone has misidentified a Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator) as a Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), and submitted their sightings to STOMP.

'Komodo dragon' seen in Chinese Garden lake: Isn't it known to attack humans?
Tourist spots 'komodo dragon' in the wild at Chinese Garden
Could this be a Komodo Dragon at Jurong Lake?

I never fail to find myself aghast at the ignorance so openly displayed by people. It's almost insulting that such a large and magnificent creature like the Malayan water monitor, which is highly adaptable and commonly encountered in both rural and urban areas throughout much of Southeast Asia, should be mistaken for its giant relative time and time again. Are people really so sheltered and insulated from the natural world that they don't know anything about our native monitor lizards, but can mention a species not found in Singapore? Surely years of our schools bringing hordes of screaming students to visit Sungei Buloh for field trips would have made more people aware of the presence of large monitor lizards in Singapore.

Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator)

Then there will be those people who don't realise that these monitor lizards are residents, even in our urban waterways, and assume that they swam over from Malaysia or Indonesia, or escaped from captivity. Not to mention the paranoia that often comes in tandem with such ignorance. More often than not, the person submitting the sighting will mention the possible risk to human safety, with the appeal to the authorities to do something about the scaly threat. I find it sad that some people appear to operate under the misconception that any large reptile lurking in the neighbourhood is waiting to strike at some unsuspecting canoeist or angler and drag him to a watery grave. Whether it's an unfounded fear of all wild animals, or just a bias against reptiles, which are not furry and fluffy, depends on the individual.

Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator)

While the Malayan water monitor does possess some potentially dangerous weapons, it seems generally loathe to use them on humans in an unprovoked attack. I wouldn't get too close, but there is no need to harbour such fears of people getting injured or killed by a marauding monitor. Up until now, I've yet to hear or read about any incidents in which a person suffered an unprovoked attack by a monitor lizard in Singapore.

Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator)

As you would have noticed by now, this charismatic species is the mascot of this blog, and in one of my earliest posts, I shared more about how ignorance poses a great threat to this gigantic lizard, and to some extent, the rest of Singapore's biodiversity as well. Such posts on STOMP remind me of the reason why I chose to devote so much of my time to writing about nature: to help correct much of the ignorance and misinformation about our wildlife, expose people to the beauty of our natural heritage, and ultimately help nurture positive attitudes towards conservation.

Malayan water monitor (Varanus salvator)

You can read more of my monitor lizard-inspired writing over at Celebrating Singapore's Biodiversity, where I have a few guest entries about the three monitor lizard species present in Singapore. One such post is about the general ecology and biology of the Malayan water monitor, while another entry discusses some of the many common myths, mistakes, and misconceptions about this beautiful reptile, as well as some of the threats that it faces.

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