Urbanization threatens Coexistence
NHK World, Asia, - 2/23/17 by Thanyadol Khamkhoksung
People in Thailand have always lived alongside wildlife, and one species of lizard in particular has had a close relationship with its human neighbors. But urban development is now threatening this coexistence.
Located in a marshy district in the suburbs of Bangkok is a small village of around 1,000 people. The village also has a nickname that refers to a water monitor, a lizard that can grow as long as 3 meters.
Water monitors live in the marshlands of Southeast Asia. They have a gentle nature and are protected under the Washington Convention.
Traditionally, villagers in the area live in harmony with the lizards. The villagers say that if the lizards get enough leftovers, they won't attack livestock or steal other animals' eggs.
"We give them things that are useless to us, so we get rid of our waste and benefit the lizards at the same time," says Surang Ohnyim, a local resident.
These days, you can even see the creatures in central Bangkok.
Rapid urbanization has destroyed much of the lizards' habitat, and they've even started going into restaurants. The lizards are popping up all over the city, in search of a suitable place to live.
Local authorities have launched measures to scale back the lizard population. A special capture team is joined by wildlife protection experts. They use fish, the animal's favorite food, to attract them and catch them, releasing them in a wildlife sanctuary far from urban areas.
Since Bangkok started the project, the number of lizards has gone down from over 400 to around 230.
"It's important for us to prevent accidents. We're doing our best not to destroy the balance of the ecosystem. We're also trying not to catch too many lizards," says Suwanna Jungrungrueng, director of the environment department at the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.