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Monitor lizards, also known as

Ghorpad in Marathi, are becoming
a regular sight at Mulunds Yogi
Hills and BARC colon areas! "n
#aturda, animal rescuers rescued a
$ %eet long monitor lizard %rom the
colon a%ter %ew morning walkers
%ound it wandering into areas
where the residents sta!
&he area incidentall shares
boundaries with the #an'a Gandhi
(ational )ark, Bori*li!
+,e saw a lizard and mistook it %or a
bab crocodile due to its appearance! -t
crawled awa as soon as we tried to reach it and hid behind the trees! ,e then called the
wildli%e rescuers so the could release it in back into the %orest or it would ha*e been
attacked b other animals,. said Rakesh #hett, a resident o% Mulund Colon!
According to )awan #harma, wildli%e rescuer and %ounder o% RA,,, an (G", the
lizards are becoming common sights in the colonies and human habitats across Mulund
and &hane that share boundaries with the %orest!
+/ue to encroachments, the enter human habitats! &hough the wont attack humans
up%ront, i% chased, the can bite! #ince their sali*a carries a certain kind o% bacteria, it can
pro*e %atal %or humans as the bitten part can become gangrenous! &he are also known to
attack with their tails which can cause paralsis in humans,. said #harma, who has
rescued around $0 such lizards in the past ear %rom the area and its surrounding parts!
&hese lizards are common in -ndia, Bangladesh and #ri 1anka and the li*e on beetles,
ground dwelling birds and occasionall climb trees to %eed on eggs! &he come under
#chedule - o% the the -ndian ,ildli%e 2)rotection3 Act, which pro*ides absolute protection
to the species!
1egend has it that an adult monitor lizard was also used b Chhatrapati #hi*a'i Mahara'
%or climbing the sides o% a %orts wall as the are said to ha*e a %irm grip and can climb
an sur%ace without an support or e%%orts!
Bengal monitor 25aranus bengalensis3, also known as the Common -ndian Monitor, is a
monitor lizard %ound throughout Bangladesh and -ndia! -t measures up to 60 cm in bod
length with the tail about 477 cm in length! -t %eeds on small terrestrial *ertebrates,
ground birds and their eggs, arthropods and %ish!
Although not uncommon, Monitor lizards are killed %or their meat and skins and are
threatened in man places b hunting!
&he lizard is known as Guishaap or Goshaap in ,est Bengal and Bangladesh, and as
ghorpad in Maharashtra ! &he lizards ha*e strong claws and in some parts o% -ndia this
has led to the mth that the can cling strongl to sur%aces! A persistent mth that has
little support %rom zoolog or histor is that #hi*a'i8s general &ana'i Malusare used a
monitor with ropes attached %or climbing the walls o% the #inhagad %ort!
,hile i was searching %or a tiger in Ranathambore in 9une, i came across this %ella resting
in a cra*ase! He did not budge and took almost :7 minutes %or our photo shoot and we
got restless and le%t in search o% the big predator! /uring 9une we saw as man as 4;
Giant lizards in Ranathambore!
Bengal (Common Indian) Monitor - Varanus bengalensis
Conservation status= 1east concern
Kingdom= Animalia
Phlum= Chordata
Class= Reptilia
Order= #>uamata
!u"order= 1acertilia
#amil= 5aranidae
Genus= Varanus
!u"genus= V. (Empagusia)
!$e%ies= V. bengalensis /audin, 4?7<
&he Bengal monitor 2Varanus bengalensis3 or %ommon Indian monitor, is a monitor
lizard %ound widel distributed o*er #outh Asia! &his large lizard is mainl terrestrial, and
grows to about 460 cm %rom the tip o% the snout to the end o% the tail! Young monitors
ma be more arboreal, but adults mainl hunt on the ground, preing mainl on
arthropods, but also taking small terrestrial *ertebrates, ground birds, eggs and %ish!
Although large monitors ha*e %ew predators apart %rom humans who hunt them %or meat,
ounger indi*iduals are hunted b man predators!
&he Bengal monitor has been said to reach nearl 460 cm with a snout@to@*ent length
2#513 o% 60 cm and a tail o% 477 cm! Males are generall larger than %emales! Hea*
indi*iduals ma weigh nearl 6!< kg! &he populations o% -ndia and #ri 1anka di%%er in the
scalation %rom those o% Manmar, and these were once considered two species, but now
considered two subspecies! &he nominate subspecies is %ound west o% Manmar, while
nebulosus is %ound to the east! &he subspecies nebulosus is diagnosed b the presence o%
a series o% enlarged scales in the supraocular region! &he number o% *entral scales *aries,
decreasing %rom 47? in the west 2)akistan3 to 60 in the east 29a*a3!
Young monitor lizards are more colour%ul than adults! Young ha*e a series o% dark
crossbars on the neck, throat and back! &he bell is white, banded with dark crossbars
and are spotted with gre or ellow 2particularl in the eastern part o% the range3! "n the
dorsal sur%ace o% oung monitors, there are a series o% ellow spots with dark trans*erse
bars connecting them! As the mature, the ground colour becomes light brown or gre,
and dark spots gi*e them a speckled appearance! Hatchlings o% nebulosus tend to ha*e a
series o% backward@pointing, 5@shaped bands on their necks!
Bengal monitors ha*e eAternal nostril openings 2nares3 that is slit@like and oriented near
horizontal, and positions between the ee and the tip o% the snout! &he nares can be
closed at will, especiall to keep awa debris or water! &he scales o% the skin are rougher
in patches and on the sides, the ha*e minute pits, especiall well distributed in males!
&hese scales with micropores ha*e glandular structures in the underling dermal tissue
and produce a secretion which ma be a pheromone@like substance! 1ike other *aranids,
Bengal monitors ha*e a %orked tongue that is protruded in the manner o% snakes! &he
%unction is mainl sensor, and is not *er in*ol*ed in the transport o% %ood down the
throat! Bengal monitors ha*e %at deposits in the tail and bod that ser*e them in
conditions when pre are not easil a*ailable!
&he lungs ha*e spong tissue unlike the sacs o% other saurians! &his allows %or greater
rates o% gas eAchange and allows a %aster metabolic rate and higher acti*it le*els! 1ike
all *aranids, the ha*e subpleurodont teeth, meaning the teeth are %used to the inside o%
the 'aw bones! &he teeth are placed one behind another, and there are replacement teeth
behind and between each %unctional tooth 2polphodont3! &he maAillar and dentar
teeth are laterall compressed, sometimes with a slightl serrate cutting edge, while the
premaAillar teeth are conical! &here are 6? premaAillar teeth, 47 maAillar and 4:
dentar teeth! Replacement teeth mo*e %orward and about %our replacements happens
each ear %or a tooth! &heir mandibular glands produce secretions at the base o% the teeth,
and although some *aranids ha*e been shown to ha*e a *enom, no toAicit has been
reported in the Bengal monitor!
Distri"ution and ha"itat
&he species ranges %rom -ran to 9a*a, among the most widel distributed o% *aranid
lizards! -t is %ound in ri*er *alles in eastern -ran, A%ghanistan, )akistan, -ndia, (epal, #ri
1anka, Bangladesh and Burma! &he subspecies Varanus bengalensis nebulosus, the
clouded monitor, occurs in southern Burma, 5ietnam, Cambodia, &hailand, Malasia,
#umatra, 9a*a and the #unda -slands! &he ha*e not been con%irmed on #umatra, and
ha*e been %ound to be absent %rom the Andaman -slands!
&he species is distributed mainl in the lower ele*ations, and is %ound both in dr
semiarid desert habitats to moist %orest! &he are o%ten %ound in agricultural areas, and are
mainl %ound below 4077m altitude!
&%olog and "ehaviour
Bengal monitors are usuall solitar and usuall %ound on the ground, although the oung
are o%ten seen on trees! 5! b! nebulosus has a greater propensit %or tree climbing! Bengal
monitors shelter in burrows the dig or cre*ices in rocks and buildings, whilst clouded
monitors pre%er tree hollows! Both races will make use o% abandoned termite mounds!
Bengal monitors, like other *aranids, show true sleep at night and are diurnal, becoming
acti*e around ; AM and bask in the morning sun! /uring winter, in the colder parts o%
their distribution range, the ma take shelter and go through a period o% reduced
metabolic acti*it! &he are not territorial, and ma change their range seasonall in
response to %ood a*ailabilit!
&he are usuall sh and a*oid humans! &he ha*e keen eesight and can detect human
mo*ement nearl <07 m awa! ,hen caught, a %ew indi*iduals ma bite, but rarel do so!
Capti*es ha*e been known to li*e %or nearl << ears! )redators o% adults include
pthons, mammalian predators and birds! A number o% ectoparasites and endoparasites
are recorded!
Bemales ma be able to retain sperm, and %emales held in con%inement ha*e been able to
la %ertile eggs! Varanus niloticus has been demonstrated to be capable o%
parthenogenesis! &he main breeding season is 9une to #eptember! Males, howe*er, begin
to show combat beha*iour in April! Bemales dig a nest hole in le*el ground or a *ertical
bank and la the eggs inside, %illing it up and using their snouts to compact the soil! &he
%emales o%ten dig %alse nests nearb and sho*el soil around the area! &he sometimes
make use o% a termite mound to nest! A single clutch o% about <7 eggs are laid! &he eggs
hatch in 4;? to nearl as long as <0$ das! About $7 to ?7C o% the eggs ma hatch!
&he are capable o% rapid mo*ement on the ground! #mall indi*iduals ma climb trees to
escape, but larger ones pre%er to escape on the ground! &he can climb well! "n the
ground, the sometimes stand on the hind legs to get a better *iew or when males %ight
other males! &he can also swim well and can sta submerged %or at least 46 minutes!
1arge adults ma ascend *ertical tree trunks, where the sometimes stalk and capture
roosting bats! &heir normal pre consists o% beetles, grubs, orthopterans, scorpions,
snails, ants and other in*ertebrates! 5ertebrate pre is comparati*el rare, and includes
%rogs, %ish, lizards, snakes and rodents! &he sometimes %eed on dead animals! -n areas
where li*estock are common, the o%ten *isit dung, where the %orage %or beetles and
other insects!
In %ulture
&he lizard is known as bis-cobra in western -ndia, guishaap or goshaap in ,est Bengal
and Bangladesh, goh in )un'ab and Bihar and as ghorpad in Maharashtra! Bolk belie% has
it that the are *enomous, and in #ri 1anka their breath is belie*ed to be poisonous! -n
Ra'asthan, the are belie*ed to be *enomous onl during the rain season! &hese lizards
ha*e strong claws the use %or climbing! A popular legend has it that #hi*a'i8s general,
&ana'i Malusare, used a monitor with ropes attached %or climbing the walls o% the
#inhagad %ort in the Battle o% #inhagad! &he Bengal Monitor8s skin has traditionall been
used in making the drum head %or the Dan'ira, a #outh -ndian percussion instrument!
Monitor lizards are hunted, and their bod %at, eAtracted b boiling, is used in a wide
range o% %olk remedies!