Large monitor lizards once occupied the dry scrub forestation on the Hosur and Kanakapura roads towards the outskirts of Bangalore. The centuries of demand for its meat has put it on Schedule II, part I of the Indian Wildlife Act, making it a criminal offence to hunt or kill them.
Regardless, persistent poaching of these active lizards continues; their meat believed to be Indian Viagra, a medicine for aches and pains and other ridiculous superstitions.
The demand for monitor lizard from local hunters, villagers or tribal communities is an ancient saga that never seemed to change; however, in a more disturbing turn of events, urban consumers have found a taste for the illegal bush meat. Obviously hunters seized the opportunity and began to sell the meat more boldly.
Monitor lizards find their way to market, The Hindu:
Effectively, the easy access to monitor lizard meat has brought it to the tables of wealthy folks as conveniently as table meat (chicken, mutton, beef etc). Dhabas have tie ups with various poachers and offer monitor lizard a la carte cooked in popular recipes of kabab, 65, manchurian and other ‘delicacies’. As the meat is also considered a good supplement for body building, certain gyms have begun to supply them on the side. The uses for monitor lizard don’t stop with the consumption of its meat. Black magic practitioners make oil using their fat.
Dead, alive or in any other condition – monitor lizards are killed and traded as a commodity for human consumption under blind faith and false promises.
In the year 2010, a raid was carried out on a community of poachers from the village Sikkarimedu, situated off the Krishnagiri main highway. 43 monitor lizards were seized. The village was dominated by a local tribe, traditionally hunters who depended on the forest or engaged in farming. From a self-sustained life to poaching wildlife, it was not long before they found commercial use for their traditional skill and knowledge; trapping monitors, jackals, porcupines, quails, muniyas and other scrub jungle animals for consumption and sale.
As demand for monitor lizard meant grows unrestrained, Sikkarimedu and other communities continue to hunt out these defenseless reptiles. Awareness about this illegal meat, monitor lizard conservation status (both globally and locally), coupled with lockdowns of poaching basecamps and strict enforcement of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act are ways in which we can give them a shot at survival.
Read more about common Indian monitor’s habitat, range, distribution here: Urban Ecology: Common Indian monitor lizard