Sunday, 16 June 2013

Monitor Lizards in Bottle Beach

The picture is a scan of a photograph taken at Bottle Beach in 1999. I remember the occasion fairly clearly. One of the Thais working at Cookies had caught a giant monitor lizard and had put it in a wicker cage.

The lizard had awful smelling breath. Its tongue flicked menacingly through the gaps in the cage. From head to tail the creature was nearly a full arm-span in length.

The lad who had caught the lizard was full of pride and glee. He kept making the joke that it was going to be chicken curry tonight.

That same holiday we saw more giant monitor lizards sunning themselves on the rocks below the Panviman swimming pool in Thong Nai Pan Noi.

It seemed at that time that these harmless (if left alone) but nasty-looking creatures were all over the island.

In 2008 I encountered a group of Thais and Burmese on a building site. They were a friendly bunch and I sat and had a glass of lao khao with them (Laotian white spirits). They also offered me some sun dried meat. Much to their amusement I declined their offer when they had managed to explain to me that the meat was lizard.

Since that time I have spotted fewer and fewer monitors around the island.

It is tempting to suggest that as beaches such as Bottle Beach and Thong Nai Pan Noi got more developed the lizards had less space to lounge and prey on insects (and whatever else they eat) in peace and quiet.

There are also deer on the island around Than Sadet. They were released as a tribute to the King who loved the waterfall next to Haad Than Sadet. I’ve never seen these deer. I hope the East Coast changes caused by the new Airport don’t reduce the numbers of deer.

The challenge for Koh Phangan is to develop its infrastructure and tourist industry without damaging its beautiful natural environment.