Cat Scan

News… and then some.

Things I don’t understand #1: Smuggling lizards

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This disgusts me.

By Cat Viglienzoni — April 8, 2011

In perusing the BBC, as I do,  I came across this story, which fascinated me on a few levels. The primary reason was the “what the—? factor.

The story: Thailand customs officials seized 1,800 Bengal monitor lizards that someone was trying to smuggle. Even better (with the sarcasm decoder you’ll find that means “worse”), these lizards were tied up and stuffed into mesh bags, hidden behind fruit. And on top of that, they were destined to be eaten as FOOD. Apparently, this meat is considered a delicacy in parts of Asia. This particular batch was headed for China.

I don’t know if you’ve ever come across a monitor lizard (I haven’t) or seen pictures of one, but they’re kind of BIG. To give you a hint, they’re in the same family as the Komodo dragon, a lizard that can grow to be 10ft long and is the largest lizard in the world. That’s almost twice my size. I consider that like a dinosaur. These ones were about 3ft long.

They’re also endangered… and after reading this article I can see why. The lizard trade is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (now THAT’S a mouthful). The organization bans commercial trade in these animals and plants, except for scientific or research purposes, and even in those cases, there are very specific regulations and permits for transporting the organisms.

Monitor lizards are found on a few continents, including Africa, Australia, and Asia. Most are found on land in jungle areas, but some are bound to water and are good swimmers. Some, like the Komodo dragon, have a mild venom. Most monitor lizards eat a carnivorous diet of eggs, birds, fish, smaller lizards, and small mammals. They use their forked tongues to detect scents in the air and search for prey (like a snake).

The most interesting fact, if it’s true, is that monitor lizards are pretty intelligent and can understand numbers up to six. This article said that – I’d need a researcher to confirm that to totally believe it.

But still… stop smuggling monitor lizards!!! (It reminds me of the story of that man caught last July in a Mexico airport for trying to smuggle 18 endangered monkeys out in a girdle his clothes… also dumb, since it caused two of the monkeys to die.)

(Photo courtesy: AP Images)

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Written by Cat Viglienzoni

April 8, 2011 at 2:43 PM

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