“For a monitor weighing 1.5 kg people will pay around Rs.500”

The youth opened the sack with utmost care to reveal the teams’ catch of the day, two monitor lizards, (Udumbu in Tamil). The monitors are still alive, with their tails tied around their necks to prevent them from moving.

“It is very difficult to catch monitor lizards, because they move very fast. We have to look very carefully in the cracks and crevices to locate them. It also takes great speed and agility to catch them,” one of the youths Karthik told The Hindu.

There is a great demand for monitor lizards, as they are considered a delicacy and are prepared in many homes and restaurants. They are also used in country medicine to treat a variety of diseases.

“Once we catch them, we have to move very quickly to tie its tail around its neck. We cannot kill them, because people will only buy them if they are still alive,” he explains.

For a monitor that weighs 1.5 kg people will pay around Rs.500. For the lizards that they had caught on the day, they hoped to get Rs.1000 for the pair because they were still very small, he said.

Their hunting ground for these lizards is an Iron Age burial ground that is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, located behind Kalpakkam Power Station.

They had different locations for different kinds of game, he said. The group would hunt monitor lizards, mongooses, rats, squirrels and birds on demand and operated both in the rocky areas (where the chances of finding monitors was higher) and in the forests and the fields (to catch birds). The group operated on an almost daily basis, but their catch for the day was variable and only if they were lucky they would find monitors, he said.

Endangered species

Monitor lizards are an endangered species and have been declared a Schedule 2 protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, a forest service officer told The Hindu.

Persons found hunting, trading or buying these animals face a fine of up to Rs.25,000 and could be imprisoned for up to seven and a half years, depending on the number of offences, the official said.