It’s been like a scene out of a low-budget horror movie in Bangkok’s Lumpini Park lately: hundred of lizards, some of them up to 10 feet long, roaming around scaring the bejeezus out of people.
The reptiles are technically monitor lizards—a term that applies to a number of large lizards native to and common in Asia, Africa, and islands in the Pacific. Kevin de Queiroz, the curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, tells CityLab that the Lumpini lizards appear to be water monitors, a variety common in Bangkok.
While the lizards have been inhabiting the 142-acre urban green space for years, their population has recently surged. More than 400 are thought to be making Lumpini their home. Though monitor lizards, including water monitors, are carnivorous, enjoying meals of dead fish, birds, and turtles—as well as the occasional stray cat—they are harmless to humans.
Still, the appearance of one of the lizards—especially a really big one—can startle the uninitiated. And with more than 10,000 visitors to the centrally located park each day, there was bound to be human-lizard interface. This has included bicycle crashes caused by the sudden arrival of one of the reptiles on a path. The lizards are also known to damage trees and plants.
For all of these reasons, city officials have now started an operation that aims to remove many of the lizards. On Tuesday, workers armed with catfish as bait as well as ropes and sacks to subdue the creatures began a reptile roundup that will last a few weeks. The lizards will be relocated to a wildlife sanctuary west of the city.
I feel little sad to heard that news. Lumpini Lizards are one of the attraction for some tourists and nature... https://t.co/oj3qMGo1HH— Mya Thazin Han (@jasminhan90) September 21, 2016
While some locals are pleased with the move—a young Bangkok cyclist told Channel News Asia that the lizards “are becoming a pest [and] their numbers are getting out of control”—others are less happy. “I think we should leave the lizards alone,” countered another resident.
One practical drawback of removing so many of the lizards is the effect it will have on their prey. “The rat population, for example, might increase,” says de Queiroz.