Big Monitor Lizard (Genus Varanus) in News

The Madhya Pradesh special task Force (MPSTF) seized 68 pieces of the tiny reptile body part from four poachers in raids in Indore and Khargone from June 16-17.

Enforcement agencies have discovered that now the big monitor lizard (genus Varanus) – found across deserts, forests and coastlines of the country – is being poached for its hemipenis (sexual organ), which is sold as a lucky charm for virility and fertility in men.

The items were most probably procured from western MP or the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, where the stony and desert topography harbours large populations of the lizard.

Generally, India has four varieties of these reptiles – Bengal, Yellow, Desert and Water Monitor Lizard. Their habitat is distributed across the middle Himalayas to Western Ghats.

The Bengal monitor (Varanus bengalensis) or common Indian monitor, is a monitor lizard found widely distributed over the Indian Subcontinent. This large lizard is mainly terrestrial, and its length can range from about 61 to 175 cm from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail.

The lizard is known as bis-cobra in western India, Goyra in Rajasthan, guishaap or goshaap in West Bengal and Bangladesh, goh in Punjab and Bihar, as ghorpad in Maharashtra and as Thalagoya in Sri Lanka.

Folk mythology across the region includes the idea that these harmless lizards are venomous, and in Rajasthan, the locals believe that the lizards become venomous only during the rainy season. Monitor lizards are hunted, and their body fat, extracted by boiling, is used in a wide range of folk remedies.

They are expert terrestrial animals as well as great swimmers. They serve an important role in the ecosystem as scavengers, eating up the flesh of dead animals alongside eggs, insects, small birds and animals. Any downfall in their numbers is unhealthy for the ecosystem.

They are a Schedule 1 species as per India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) prohibits trade in the Bengal Monitor Lizard.