Thursday, February 25, 2010

Creepy Crawly Caper 3: The Quest for Monitor Lizards.

During the Chinese New Year holiday, my wife and I went back to my parents’ place, a small plantation (known mostly as ‘estate’ in Malaysia) in Johor. Owned by Atlas Holding, the estate is located between two small towns called Yong Peng and Paloh in Johor. We went to visit my parents, of course, as well as to satisfy my wife’s curiosity about the one and only monitor lizard! Actually she wanted an encounter with one.

So, how many of you know monitor lizards? I mean, not in, “yeah sure, I know him when he was a kid, but last I heard they locked him up in Singapore” kinda “know”, but knows that one exists at all? They belong to the lizard family. Yeah, I heard that collective, “duh?!” So you know that, but how do you differentiate a monitor lizard from an iguana? Huh? Huh? Why the sudden silence guys? Okay, listen up.

An iguana is the one that usually found in some bad guys shoulder in the movies with diamonds necklace wrapped around it and is about as aggressive as a paper clip. Wait, a paper clip is much more aggressive. The Iguanas are very thorny, you wouldn’t want to pet them like you do a dog or cat. They just hang around, and, well, just hang around.

Monitor lizard, on the other hand, are active buggers. They run like flash, or The Flash, or at least they do in the old days when there were predators around. You city bred kids are now thinking, what predator? Who want to kill monitor lizards? A pig? A cow? Snakes? Haha, what other animals you have there in the plantation where you grew up in, you mister know-it-all?

Listen up! You want to know what was Monitor Lizard’s predator? Us? Yeah, we plantation dwellers were the hunters. Why? Coz, they taste damned good that’s why? Do it in dry Indian gravy, oh man…heaven!

If you are done puking, let me assure you this: they really taste good. Trouble is, they were hard to catch and usually you have dogs to hunt them down. Sometimes, there are some guys who are quick on the foot and do the catching themselves. If you check on some of the fastest runner in Malaysia, you will find out that they are from estate, and I’d be damned if they were not used to catch those lizards.

My mom never ate those things, she had class. My dad and my brothers did, and we used to get cooked lizards from neighbours or dad’s friends…till one day. Well, I must have been twelve or so, when there was this little monitor lizard which hung around in our neighbourhood. Like most of its kind, it was harmless…if it could speak; it would probably hang around with us saying things like, “got a fag, bro”. So there it was, around the corner, up on the tree, by the drain, being harmless, friendly, and totally non-threatening. Like those little kids you used to bully, remember?

Then, one day when dad was doing his business in the toilet, guess who appeared in the toilet bowl. Yes, our Mr. Harmless “the bro” Monitor Lizard! Apparently, as we learned later, they also eat shit. Yeah, if you insult a monitor lizard saying, “why don’t you go and eat shit, you scaly repulsive creature”, it will take it as a compliment. It’s like your friend cursing you, “I hope one day you will eat foie gras!” Well, times have changed and they are alleged endangerered specie. My dad says that these days they just don’t bother about us, in fact, they would walk with their head up knowing well that if we lay a finger on them, the authorities will pounce on us faster than they would on actual criminals hanging around.

Anyway, I used to tell tales to my wife about the monitor lizard encounters. There was once, when I was going to my good friend’s house when I had one. It was a short cut route to his house from school, a tiny cleared road amidst bushes behind one of the kampung (village) houses that led to the back entrance of the double storied house my friend lived in. Halfway my walk, there it was. And this is not your favourite next-door-type monitor lizard mind you. This one looked like one that was sired by a crocodile that mated a man-sized Godzilla. It looked like a frickin’ crocodile, except my experienced thought me that it was a damned monitor lizard. My experience also taught me that when you see something like this, do what a sensible human being do – run. Apparently the lizard did the same thing, and both of us ended up where we started from, me back in school, and the lizard probably back with his crocodile dad.

And so here I was, about twenty plus years later, back in estate with my wife this time, asking me like every hour if there is a monitor lizard around. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any around, and my wife was understandingly disappointed. Not seeing a monitor lizard was akin to not meeting your favourite aunt in a family gathering, I guess.

On the way back, I decided to pay a visit to one of the plantations I used to live in, called Chan Wing now called Gunung Mas (where incidents cited in Creepy Crawler 1 & 2 articles took place). After showing around, on the way back, as we drove, my wife still disappointed, suddenly I saw something crossing the gravelled road about thirty or so meters ahead of us. I knew it! I pressed the accelerator and there it was, a beaut, slightly more than a meter long, including it’s tail, by the shoulder of the road staring at us from one of its eye. I took a pix, the very one you see on top. My wife was delighted, and decided to give it the most reptilian, macho name she could think of, Betsy.

More on reptiles here:

Creepy Crawler Capers 1

Creepy Crawler Capers 2


morphx said...

Were you around when I found one in newsteam's elevator? For the life of me the name of that thing escaped me and I told Jag that I found a BIG lizard in the elevator. Our brave Jag thought it was just a regular big lizard and went to the elevator to have a look... boy, did he jump back a few feet when he saw how BIG that lizard was. I think it must have crawl into the elevator from the Sg Gombak nearby.

Rakesh Kumar said...

I think so. But I was not there at that time, if am not mistaken. Thanks for reading mate.