Sunday, 29 January 2012

Monitor lizards heading for extinction in Malacca (via Herp Digest)

Malacca:  Frequent hunting of Malacca's giant monitor lizards, allegedly for their skin and meat as well as their body liquid for aphrodisiac purposes, could drive the reptile to extinction.

"Fifteen years ago, these reptiles could be easily spotted lazing along the river bank of scenic Malacca River. Now, they are hard to come by," said city councillor Ronald Gan Yong Hoe.

"In some countries, monitor lizards are protected under Endangered Species Acts. We hope the state government will move to conserve our local reptiles," the member of the Malacca Historic City Council said.

"If nothing is done, the extensive poaching of this reptile could lead to its extinction," he said.

Gan said the local monitor lizards, known locally as biawak, are large water monitor species (varanus salvator) capable of growing up to three metres long and 25 kilos in weight.

He said that apart from their skin and meat, the reptlie was sought for a liquid from its body that was commonly believed to increase sexual prowess in both men and women.

Gan said the reptile's thick and leathery skin was used for clothing accessories, such as bags and belts, while its meat was said to have healing powers for ailments such as asthma and pneumonia besides increasing sexual prowess.

He said that besides poaching, the reptiles were often exposed to other risks, such as being hit by vehicles when crossing roads.

On a more positive note, Gan said a father and daughter from Australia, who dubbed themselves as Biawak Dundees, were rescuing and treating injured monitor lizards here.

Gan added that following a proposal by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, the state government has made lizard- watching one of the features of the Malacca River cruise.

Meanwhile, mayor Zainal Abu said poaching activities along the river bank has declined due to continuous patrols by the council's enforcement officers.

However, he added, there could still be some hunting upstream and it was up to the state Wildlife and National Parks Department to curtail such activity.

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