New Delhi: Legend has it that the Maratha General, Tanaji Malusare when he planned to scale the steep hilltop of the Sinhagad Fort in 1670s Pune, it was possible because of Monitor lizards which helped him achieve that feat. Irony however is dying a slow death as extensive poaching and illegal trade are posing an existential threat to the same wonder of nature.
With the male sex organ of the Monitor lizard useful in Ayurveda, the creature has overtime become a prime target of poachers. In a recent appeal, the World Wildlife Fund-India and TRAFFIC have urged people to protect the ‘Varanus’ species of monitor lizards.
The size of the monitor lizard ranges from 8 inches to 3 metres long.
“The demand for ‘Hatha Jodi’ is one of the major drivers of poaching and illegal trade of monitor lizards in India today,” Saket Badola, Head of TRAFFIC’s India office has been quoted as saying.
With poaching rampant, there is evidence that populations of the Bengal Monitor, Common Water Monitor and Yellow Monitor are being depleted. Monitor lizards are protected under India’s Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and listed under CITES.
The other reason why these monitor lizards are poached is their meat which is considered a delicacy and believed to have medicinal properties.
Only recently TRAFFIC-WWF India on February 5 launched an online campaign “Buying Is Stealing” warning people against buying medicinal products made from monitor lizards.
Reportedly, monitor lizards have a major role to play in agricultural and forest ecosystems keeping insects, rodents, bird eggs, snakes, fish and crabs in check.
In some regions, they are also a food source for other predators. Monitor lizards help in biomass decomposition and recycling.
They are also being threatened by habitat degradation.
No just the Indian subcontinent, they are also found in China, south Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, isles in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea.