Saturday, October 18, 2008

the 'crocodiles' of sungei buloh wetland reserve

if you think you have been to the sungei buloh wetland reserve and you have not come across a single malaysian monitor lizard, you have probably been to the wrong place. you may not see the birds that you are there to see or you may not see the otters but you will definitely see one of these water lizards. sometimes i wonder if the sightings of 'crocodiles' in the reserve could be a mistake. from a distance, a huge monitor lizard can be mistaken for a baby crocodile.

you will see these creatures everywhere: along the trail, on the boardwalk, by the bank of the river, in the pond, on the grass, in the swamp, swimming in the river or swimming in the pond. i have even seen one up on a tree, having a nap. at one time i counted up to eight monitor lizards in the same pond.

most monitor lizards, even the very big ones, will shy away from human beings. they can move quite fast, both on land and in water. they are quite graceful swimmers; they keep their limbs close to their body and seem to propel themselves by swinging their powerful tail from side to side. these lizards can also stay submerged in water for quite some time, up to half an hour.

my friend has seen foreign workers setting up traps by the sides of a canal in the bendemeer area to catch these monitor lizards. they would place a loop at the round openings on the sides of the canal and when the creature crawled out, they would be caught as the loop closed onto it. according to him, many were caught in this way. the meat of the monitor lizard can be eaten and one large lizard can provide quite a lot of meat.

i have not tasted the meat of the monitor lizard but i have been told it is delicious and that it tastes like chicken meat.

the chinese call it 'the four-legged snake'. indeed, the monitor lizard, with its forked tongue, does look like a snake. it flicks its tongue to scent for its prey.


Lam Chun See said...

I have seen the (seme one?) at Sungei Buloh. During my brisk walking exercise, I have also seen monitor lizards at MacRitchie near the Lim Bo Seng tomb, Kallang River behind the MOE Language Centre in Bishan St 14 and even the canal near my house in Bt Timah; beteween Azura Park and Royal Ville.

Anonymous said...

I grew up helping in my father's wine shop and one of the types of wine sold was the snake wine bottled in china. In each bottle of the wine there was a 'four legged snake'. The wine was believed to cure rheumatism and arthritis. Some believed it was good for the 'banana'.