Sunday, August 31, 2014
The good old land monitor (Varanus bengalensis) or “thalagoya” is an animal treated with much indifference. Most suburban households in Sri Lanka have these critters walking about their garden or sunbathing on their roofs. I find these resilient lizards very interesting as not only do they do us a service by eating the rats and snakes in our area, but are also harmless unless provoked and generally adapt well to urban environments.
The Bengal monitor has been said to reach nearly 175 cm with a snout-to-vent length (SVL) of 75 cm and a tail of 100 cm. Males are generally larger than females. Heavy individuals may weigh nearly 7.2 kg and obese captives even more and the males grow to greater weight. Young monitor lizards are more colourful than adults. Young have a series of dark crossbars on the neck, throat and back.
A memorable encounter with the “thalagoya” was at Yala when I was on safari with my mother and two of her best friends from the USA. We were driving around the park during February of 2011 when we came across a sight which I will never forget.
Two land monitors were locked in combat; they were wrestling and fighting with each other using their sharp teeth and claws in a deadly embrace. The movements of their combat would look very similar to a Greco Roman Wrestler, where they lock each other in a clinch position and attempt to use balance and strength to out maneuver the opponent. The difference in this case was that both animals were armed with viscous teeth and razor sharp claws which dug into each other. The two were bleeding profusely and it seemed that both would die from this clash. I was in awe at the sight of these two gladiators who fought tooth and nail in a combat of life and death. The fight went on for over 20 minutes till an approaching jeep prompted the pair to let go of their embrace and go their separate ways.