Things that make you to Think
This story is about Gui Shaap (Bengal Monitor Lizard) which once is found all around the Bangladesh but now a days it becomes rare in this country day by day because of public concern and government’s less interest on it.
Apart from this, increasing urbanization, which destroys the natural environment of this cool blooded reptile animal guishaap, is one of the vital reason for reducing the number of gui shaap.
Photography by Abid Azad
Oneday, I was walking beside the Jahangirnagar University (JU) lake one evening when I suddenly spotted a baby reptile in a tree. At first I thought it was some kind of a lizard.
Behind the tree I found a huge spawn of these critters. Out of curiosity, I looked through it and came to know that it was a baby guishaap (monitor lizard).
Monitor lizards are common wild reptiles which can still be found at JU. “If you take a walk behind the central cafeteria, you can easily find a lot of monitor lizard. They are as good a resident on this campus as the JU community, although monitor lizards are found everywhere, the largest congregations can be found around the cooking areas of some of the dormitories. Sometimes they enter the dorm rooms, while at other times they enter the classrooms, making hissing sounds.
Almost everyone at JU knows that the place is a sanctuary for the wild life, particularly for the migratory guest birds, due to its green, wildlife-friendly campus. Monitor lizard is one of the many wild species that inhabit the area.
However, nowadays monitor lizards are rarely seen across the country. Bushy areas make an attractive environment for monitor lizards. Food is available in plenty around the campus. Due to the ecologically friendly people and the accommodating environment of the JU campus, the monitor lizards face no problem during their breeding season, which is around the monsoon.
The scientific name for a monitor lizard is varanus salvator. For further learning, I then went to wildlife researcher Kamrul Hassan, associate professor of the Zoology department at JU, he mentioned, “In Bangladesh there are three species of monitor lizards: Bengal Monitor Lizard, Yellow Monitor Lizard and Ring Lizard. Among them, the Bengal Monitor Lizard is most common in our country. Yellow Monitor Lizard is rare and Ring Lizard is the biggest in size. In this campus, we have a sizeable amount of Bengal Monitor Lizards and a few Yellow Monitor Lizards.”
The monitor has no particular eating habits. It mainly eats the waste food and preys upon rats, snakes, beetles, grubs, scorpions, snails, etc. According to Prof Hassan, due to this diverse eating habit, monitor lizards play an important role in the ecological balance, thereby becoming the natural pest controller.
“Contrary to popular belief that a monitor’s bite is harmful,” he says, “monitor lizards never cause any harm to humans. They are peaceful creatures and natural pest controllers.”
An adult monitor lizard measures up to 75 centimetres in body length, with around 100-centimetre long tail. Its weight is around four to seven kgs. Females are larger than the male in both length and weight. They can live for around 20-25 years. A female monitor can lay around 80-150 eggs per year. Eggs are laid into burrows, dead logs or even termite mounds, and the eggs hatch in approximately five months. Young monitors are found mainly in trees and they feed only on insects and bird eggs.
They rarely get affected by disease. Though uncommon, the monitors are sometimes killed for their meat and skin. The number of monitors is gradually decreasing due to deforestation. On top of this, some people are disturbing the breeding habits of monitors by destroying termite mounds in search of termites which are bait for catching fish.
The monitor has a very tough skin, for which it has high demand in many countries, used for the production of stylish crafts. Its flesh is a delectable meal in countries like China, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Korea.
There was a time when monitor lizards could be seen frequently everywhere as it was a common wild reptile in our country, but now due to rapid urbanization and indiscriminate destruction of its dwellings, it is well on its way on becoming an endangered species.
These peaceful reptiles are being exterminated everyday only because of the lack of public concern and our government’s blatant indifference. Farming monitor lizard could be a good source of earning foreign currency as its meat and hide has great demand abroad.
Its farming cost is quite cheap as monitor lizard eats mainly waste food and insects. If only the government and private sector would take the initiative, monitor lizard farming could not only yield much needed foreign currency, but it would also provide a new venue to improve our unemployment situation.
“Our country is a sanctuary for wild life. The demand for monitor lizard’s skin and meat is quite high in many foreign countries,” says Prof Hassan. “Many years ago, the government had a project of farming monitors at Bhaluka in Mymensingh, but it was later shut down due to illegal activities.
If the government took another initiative for monitor farming, it would be a good source of earning foreign currency for our country,” he adds. “But it should be done in a proper way by creating mass awareness,” he concludes.