Friday, March 6, 2009


It was love at first sight for me with my first monitor. I was 14. We had recently moved into this new locality. Ours was the only housing society comprising of 20 houses in the midst of vast farmlands on one side and scrub jungle on the other. We had literally encroached into a good wild habitat. By the time I understood the concept of habitat destruction through human encroachment, the locality had already urbanized with buildings everywhere, people everywhere, vehicles, pollution - everything that one would want to get away from.

Shifting to this place had kick-started my herping instincts. I used to see a lot of stuff right inside & outside our backyard. My ma and pa are big gardening fans. I am a fan of a jungle! They had tried to create a nice little garden which I had turned into a mini jungle by not allowing trimming and planting more and more native trees / plants / shrubs EVERYWHERE. Our garden was often visited by herps, especially monitors. 

I used to get so fascinated by these guys, some of which were pretty big.

I remember once I came back from my tution classes (where most of my time was spent in drawing weird snakes, lizards and enclosures to house them!), I saw at least 12-15 people gathered outside my house. I went in and saw the whole kitchen floor covered in blood. Then I saw my dog "Jakie" (My first and best friend who passed away at the age of 17 in 2004) breathing heavily and his face covered in blood. I couldn't figure out what had happened. Then my pa narrated the whole incident how a monitor had entered the house when we all were out. Jackie had a tough fight but had managed to kill it. I went over to see the dead monitor. It was a big guy. Sad that it died but I guess Jakie just performed his duty. This whole incident gave me an idea which I used some years later.

I was hardcore in to herping and at one point of time I had seven monitors in my room. All well taken care of, very tame. They had a fixed routine of getting fed in the evenings. Once a friend of mine had entered the room without my knowledge, and from what he described it seemed like he had a near death experience with seven "dragons" charging him. He had a "narrow escape". Well, these guys were used to the feeding time and would curiously come to greet with all eyes on the treat. It was just a perfectly timed co-incidence.

My ma had one such incidence. She once entered my room to "clean" it as it was pending for a long time. A big male charged her (in monitor words - came to greet and ask for food) and she reacted really loudly. So loud that a couple of neighbors were seen peeping in. The evening ended in a big fight as expected. Fortunately the other 6 guys didn't come out! I guess they got startled by the loud scream and didn't gather enough wits to come out. "It's ok to miss one feeding. We are not so hungry anyways."

My parents never knew I had so many inmates with me. The acceptance didn't  go all that smooth. But I think most of the people would react likke that. Anyways, so eventually I told them about only a few when I actually had a lot more. This trick went on for a long time and helped me learn to keep my animals safely, properly, hygienically (this is very important; even the slightest of smell/odor will give it away) without my parents having any clue about it. This is when I had started preparing captive care notes. 

Later when I joined the wildlife rehab center, all of this experience came in handy. We often used to get monitors that had to be kept in captivity on a temporary basis for recovery. Most of the monitors that I have worked with is Varanus bengalensis.

I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work with Varanus griseus as well.

Now remember the idea I had mentioned earlier? We had a small store room in our backyard which was perfect to house a pair of monitors. I was strictly told not to keep any monitors in the house but me being me, just couldn't resist! The store room had some scrap materials inside which I used as good hides for them. I had them peacefully for a long time until there was again a cleaning session. My ma gets these "house cleaning" attacks quite often. I was out when I got a call regarding these guys in the store room. I was searching for some good excuses and just then I remembered that these could be wild monitors that accidentally entered the store room! My ma had a good reason to argue that. The store room was locked from outside! 

"Somebody might have opened it for something and must have forgotten to close the door. These guys must have slipped in then. May be later the door was locked and they got trapped in!"

Ha ha... well, she was convinced.

My pa would say "Look they are not afraid of humans at all!" I had to kick the poor guys a couple of times to make them run like wild monitors. "Look there they are running away"....... and they would turn and come back! LOL.

But on the fourth time of same thing happening, they were not so convinced anymore. 


One of the most amazing rehab cases I came across at the rehab center was of a monitor with chemical burns all over its mouth.

I remember tube-feeding it for nearly a month. Its recovery was a great success. I think that was the best rehab team consisting me (as Wildlife Incharge / Head rehabilitator), Akanksha (as Assistant rehabilitator; now my wife!), Dr. Dananjaya from Sri Lanka (as Wildlife vet consultant; you were great man!) and Dr. Disale (as Onsite vet). It was a great team effort. You remember this case Dana? Dr. Disale had great patience to administer the regular doses of anti-biotics and fluids. I will always remember those good old rehab days!

I had some real good time with these guys. After working with more than a hundred monitors over a period of 8 active years, I can say that they are highly intelligent animals and show impressive understanding of their immediate surroundings. 

Monitors are awesome and I definitely look forward to work with them in future!


Please note that catching / keeping / treating / transporting / trading / etc. of Monitor lizard sp. (native species) is against the law as these animals are protected by the Government of India under schedule - I of WildLife (Protection) Act, 1972.

I was a kid and I had no clue about the WPA, 1972. I came to know about it when I joined the wildlife rehab centre. My later experiences were all in the rehab center which was recognized by Central Zoo Authority and Gujarat Forest Department.



shafeeq said...

What an Inspiring Article! Absolutely amazing!

Unknown said...

Awesome article buddy.. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Unknown said...

Awesome article buddy. Thanks for sharing your experiences

Shweta said...

This is amazing, Soham!! Superb!! :) Couldn't stop laughing reading bout the "cleaning attacks" :D. Loved this one!