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The common water monitor (Varanus salvator).

Sightings of these large lizards were first officially recorded in Hong Kong between 1961 and 1963 — in Sha Tau Kok, Fanling, Stonecutters Island and Cha Kwu Ling — according to University of Hong Kong’s School of Biological Sciences. But perhaps they lived here once...but then they were once believed to be locally extinct.

Now sightings are more common, in reservoirs and around water, but these are probably escapees from the thriving illegal wildlife pet trade, or released animals.

These lizards can get very large and difficult to look after, as this is the world’s second-largest lizard after the Komodo dragon. An adult can grow to 1.5 metres to 2 metres in length, although there is a record of one monitor in Sri Lanka growing as long as 3.21 metres. Yikes.

Here one forages underwater.

Many conservationists - myself included - welcome these breeding populations back into the wilds of Hong kong, as they play an important part in our ecology, both as predator and carrion eater.

These escaped individuals have made their home a juvenile.

These Common Water Monitor Lizards are the only Varanids and the largest lizards we have in Hong Kong: they can grow up to 4m. The photo above is of a juvenile, which have finer and prettier markings. They eat large insects, crustaceans, birds and even small mammals, and they love carrion (dead animals) in this picture below where it appears to have found a dead wild pig (this photo I took in Malaysia).


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