I almost choked on my peanut butter pork floss sandwich when I heard the news that water sport activities at the Sports Hub and Kallang area has been suspended due to the reported sighting of crocodiles! My, how exciting! Was my first thought. First the otter, now crocodile. Singapore is getting to be a real jungle. Maybe the crocodile was tracking the Marine Otters and followed it all the way there. I was all ready to grab my camera and rush down there to catch a glimpse of the newest competition to the Merlion until Commonsense slapped me in the face and told me “Get real. it is just a monitor lizard”. And disappointingly for all the buayas out there, it was indeed just a monitor lizard.
This is not the first time that some goondu of a public mistake a monitor lizard for something else – like the crocodile and even more amusingly, a Komodo Dragon and create a mountain out of a lizard hill. Think this people watch too much National Geographic or Discovery Channels which loves to feature these 2 big reptiles and not the humble little monitor lizard.
So for these goondu out there. Let me educate you a bit.
Fact No 1. Singapore is home to 2 species of monitor lizard, the Water Monitor Lizard and Clouded Monitor Lizard. I not going to teach anyone how to differentiate between these 2. Suffice to say if one cannot differentiate between a monitor lizard and a crocodile or komodo dragon, the fella will never ever be able to differentiate between the 2 lizards.
Fact No 2. There are only 1 species of crocodile resident in Singapore currently and this is the Estuarine Crocodile. There was a time not too long ago when it was rarely seen in Singapore but nowadays it is fairly easy to spot a few of them at Sungai Buloh Wetland Reserve and maybe the river banks around the Kranji area.
Fact No 3. Hold on to your seat. Contrary to what other people said, there are Komodo Dragon in Singapore and they can be found only in one place in Singapore. In Mandai inside the Singapore Zoo! Hahaha. So if some joker tell you they saw a Komodo Dragon in say Sungei Tampines or Kallang River, nah… it can’t be unless 1) it escaped from the zoo (highly unlikely) 2) it was somebody pet and escaped or was released (possible but still quite unlikely and 3) it swam over from Indonesia’s Komodo Island (possible but very unlikely).
Take a good look at these 3 photos above. I agree the monitor lizard do looks a little like the Komodo Dragon and a blur king, might not be able to tell them apart. So just remember Fact no 3. The only Komodo Dragon in Singapore are in the zoo so whatever it is you see, it is not a Komodo Dragon.
Ok so we eliminate the possibility of someone mistaking a monitor lizard for a Komodo Dragon. But how does one not know how to differentiate between a monitor lizard and a crocodile which looks totally different? Just look at the 2 photos above of each of them. Totally different right? But me think people usually can tell them apart if they are on land but not when swimming. And both are great swimmers. Here how to tell them apart.
This is a photograph of a crocodile swimming at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Note that only the eyes are visible above the water. Typically when a crocodile swims, only its eyes, nostril and part of its back and tail is above the water. Everything else is submerge below the water line.
Contrast this with a monitor lizard in water and which is a fairly common sight in our inland “canals” or even ponds. This is a photo of one of them. Note that almost the whole head is above water.
So the next time you spot something longish swimming in the canal near your place, take a closer look before you call your mummy, the cops, Nparks or ACRES.
And by the way, if you see this in our water as well, please be aware this is not a shark! As to what it is, I will leave that story for another time.