Most people go to the park to relax, take a breath of fresh air, to lay around in the grass and listen to birds singing. But those who visit Bangkok’s Lumpini Park might find, instead of birds, some of the most terrifying creatures walking the Earth, the scions of the extinct dinosaurs from millions of years ago: the monitor lizards, the common name of the species known as the Komodo dragons.
The Lumpini Park is known for its large numbers of monitor lizards, of which some can reach up to two-three metres. In the recent years, though, the lizard population increased dramatically, with more than 400 individuals lurking around the park. Officials from Lumpini have decided to catch and relocate more than 100 of them to a wildlife breeding centre in Ratchaburi, around 80 miles south of Bangkok.
“They walk around and don’t know that people are scared of them. (…) It’s time for us to control them,” said Suwanna Jungrungrueng, head of the Bangkok’s environment department.
While the monitor lizards may be scary indeed, they are harmless to humans, but park officials say they’re causing damage to the park’s fish, plants and landscape. There were also reports of cyclists injured while trying to avoid the roaming lizards on the alleys of Lumpini.
The antediluvian beasts are not that much liked in Thailand. They’re known as “hia”, which is also one of the heaviest curse words in the local language. There’s a perfectly viable explanation for that, as park officials say.
“In the past hia used to steal people’s food, so that’s why people cursed them,” explained 49-year-old Tawee Somnamee, one of the employees of the 142-acre park, a small green spot in the heart of the capital’s skyscraper forest and a favourite among joggers and cyclists.
The lizards don’t have an all-bad reputation in Thailand. Some people say they actually bring good luck. “If a hia goes into someone’s room, they will become rich,” said Mr Tawee. He also said the park will not be removing all of the lizards in the premises, with consideration for tourists who would come to see them and also the ecosystem.
“Water monitor lizards clean up all the mess when various animals die and their bodies starts decaying. They also eat rats. Therefore, the lizards clean up all these biowastes and get rid of diseases,” said Tuanjai Noochdamrong, director of the department’s Wildlife Conservation Office.
According to specialists, some species of monitor lizards are considered among the most intelligent reptiles in the world. Some of them can count, while others are known to recognise zoo keepers and also have different personalities.