BANGKOK • Wildlife officials are on a mission in Bangkok's famed Lumpini Park to trap and round up large lizards living there that imperil the fish and plant life and can startle unwary visitors.
The water monitor lizards, which can grow up to 2m in length, are famous throughout the Thai capital. Residents and tourists often come face to face with the reptiles as they crawl along roads or slither out of the city's many canals.
Many lizards live in Lumpini Park, an inner-city oasis thronged by joggers, sunning themselves on its pavements or plunging into its pools.
With their population soaring out of control to some 400, city officials are on a mission to bait and bag some of the meaty reptiles known as "hia" - a noun which doubles as the most powerful swear word in Thai.
"They don't hurt people but they do hurt nature, and trample on flowers," Mr Tuanjai Noochdamrong, director of the Wildlife Conservation Office under the Department of National Parks, told reporters yesterday.
"Our target is to catch 40 today."
Park officers have already captured nearly 100 lizards by luring them out of the water with catfish, before swiftly pouncing on them and tying up their limbs.
The lizards will be taken to a wildlife breeding centre in Ratchaburi, around 129km south of the capital, where they will be well cared for, city authorities have said.
But Mr Michael Cota, a member of the IUCN Monitor Lizard Specialist Group, was not so sure.
"They're being transferred to what's called a wildlife breeding centre where they take nuisance animals or animals handed over to the government and they supposedly take care of them there," said Mr Cota, who is based in Bangkok.
"They don't have the resources to take care of them and most of them end up dying," he said.
"I'm sure after three or four months, most of them will be dead."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE