Watch Water Monitor Lizards @ Wat Bung

The Water Monitor Lizard is the second largest lizard on earth after the Komodo Dragon. Although adult specimens will not normally exceed 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft) in length, the species can attain a maximum size of 3 m (9.8 ft). And amazingly, you can watch them going about their daily business in the very centre of Nakhon Ratchasima.

In Thailand, the local word for a water monitor, hia (Thai: เหี้ย), is used as an insulting word for bad and evil things, including bad persons. The word is also thought to bring bad luck, so some people prefer to call the animals ตัวเงินตัวทอง, which means 'silver and gold' in Thai - to avoid the jinx.

The origin of this offensive meaning can be traced back to a time when more people lived in rural areas in close proximity to monitor lizards. Traditionally, Thai villagers lived in two-story houses; the top floor was for living, while the ground floor was designed to be a space for domestic animals such as pigs, chickens, and dogs. Water monitors would enter the ground floor and eat or maim the domestic animals, also hence the other name ตัวกินไก่ (dtua gin gai – chicken eater).

Water monitors defend themselves using their tails, claws, and jaws. They are excellent swimmers, using the raised fin on their tails to steer through water. They are carnivores, and have a wide range of foods. They are known to eat fish, frogs, rodents, birds, crabs, and snakes. They have also been known to eat turtles, as well as young crocodiles and crocodile eggs. Like the Komodo dragon, they will often eat carrion. 

Water monitors have been observed eating catfish in a fashion similar to a mammalian carnivore, tearing off chunks of meat with their sharp teeth while holding the fish with their fore legs and then separating different parts of the fish for sequential consumption.

They can often be seen swimming in the moat around Yamo, they look just like crocodiles from a distance and are often mistaken for them. However, the best place to see them close up is in the lake around Wat Bung which is on Chomphon Road. if you’re looking at the Wat from the road there are usually large Raffia baskets used to hold rubbish just past the last building on the right hand side. Water Monitor Lizards can often be seen foraging these baskets for food and if your quiet you can often get as close as 5 meters from them before they scurry back into the lake. Binoculars are not required because they are bigger than most humans!

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