'We undoubtedly have to learn to live with wildlife': Police officer on rescuing monitor lizard at Republic Ave

It took him 20 minutes to save a life from becoming roadkill.

Zhangxin Zheng | April 21, 2021, 11:27 PM

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The safety of wildlife matters, just like any Singaporeans living in this city in nature.

On April 18, police officers, Natasha Syakila and Kenny Lim Teck Kiang, were conducting their patrol along the Marina Promenade area.

At around 7pm, Lim and Syakila were then alerted to a monitor lizard which was "lying motionless" in the middle of Republic Avenue.

Members of the public did not know what to do and sought their help to rescue the critter.

Rescue monitor lizard from busy road at Beach Road District

While Lim and Syakila were untrained, they assessed the situation and decided to give it a shot in the interest of the public.

Speaking to Mothership, Lim said:

"My partner Natasha and I noticed that the lizard was lying motionless in the middle of a busy road.

Members of the public could be seen waving at cars from behind the road safety barrier, in an attempt to get the oncoming cars’ attention to slow down. We made a quick assessment to consider the safety of the public and our safety too, before we attempted to move the lizard."

It is important to remove the monitor lizard from the road carefully (not stepping on the creature's tail for instance) without provoking it.

Lim said that he observed the monitor lizard's behaviour to decide the course of action to take.

You can see from the online videos, taken by onlookers, how Lim patiently ushered it off the road.

Here you see that the monitor lizard looked at Lim suspiciously after feeling his touch on its tail. Feeling that it might be wary of him, Lim resorted to gesturing the monitor lizard to move to the roadside. Video from Just Keep Thinking/Facebook.

Not the easiest negotiation that Lim had to deal with but at least he was making some progress. Video from Just Keep Thinking/Facebook.

While Lim was trying to convince the monitor lizard to move away, Syakila assisted in traffic control.

After a few attempts, he managed to grab hold of the monitor lizard's tail and its neck without making it feel threatened.

After that, he carried the monitor lizard and released it near Marina reservoir, or as Lim described, "a more familiar habitat".

Yay, mission accomplished. Take care and find a safer spot to sunbath, little one. Video from Just Keep Thinking/Facebook.

Singapore can be an amazing place for all, including wildlife

Speaking to Mothership, Lim recalled that their main concern then was the safety of both the public and the monitor lizard.

He added that they were heartened to see members of the public rendering help to a distressed monitor lizard. The incident reminded him the importance of learning how to live harmoniously with wildlife.

"Incidents like this remind us that as we live in an urbanised environment, we undoubtedly have to learn to live with our local wildlife. A little goes a long way… and together we can make Singapore an amazing place for all (including wildlife) to live in."

What do you do when you encounter a monitor lizard in an unexpected place

Malayan water monitor lizards are commonly spotted in Singapore's green spaces. They might however appear in urban areas such as being on the road like this case or in residential areas.

As cold-blooded reptiles, monitor lizards obtain heat from external sources. It is likely that the monitor lizard spotted on April 18 was sunbathing and taking in the warmth from the road.

Monitor lizards are naturally shy and prefer to stay away from humans. Unless they feel threatened, they will not approach or attack you. This is why you should keep a distance from them and do not attempt to touch or chase after them.

If you encounter a monitor lizard in urban setting, do not handle the monitor lizard. You can alert NParks by calling 1800 476 1600 or wildlife rescue charity Acres by calling 9783 7782.

The two hotlines are available 24 hours.

Top image via screengrab via Just Keep Thinking/FB and courtesy of Singapore Police Force