10 people face off monitor lizard in Punggol kopitiam, we rate their reactions based on NParks' advice

We did not rate the lizard.

Tan Min-Wei | January 14, 2023, 07:48 PM

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After a heavy rain, TikToker Johnson Ooi was sitting in a kopitiam when it was patronised by an unexpected visitor: a monitor lizard.

The 45-second video, uploaded on Jan. 13, shows a variety of possible responses to such an event, and we use NPark's handy guide to monitor lizard encounters to rate their responses.

@johnsonooiWhen the food court is next to water way and heavy rain. This thing happens♬ original sound - Johnson Ooi

Note: the author is not a wildlife expert. But he used to encounter monitor lizards on a weekly basis for five years because he worked next to the Botanic Gardens. He hasn't been bitten... yet.

What does NParks say?

NPark's "dos and don'ts" page on monitor lizard says that the most common type of monitor lizard is the Malayan water monitor, which appears to be the type encountered.

The species can grow up to 3 meters in length, and is described as "shy" and "would rather stay away from humans". They are unlikely to attack unless provoked.

They are excellent swimmers, fast runners, and good tree climbers.

They are also mildly venomous, although the venom is said to have "a relatively mild effect on humans".

There is also some concern about the bacterial content of its bite due to its primary diet of carrion, but NParks says the venom is more concerning.

NParks recommends keeping your distance, and leaving them alone. If you do that "you will be fine".

It also gives three further bullet points:

  • Do not be alarmed
  • Do not touch, chase or corner them, as they may attack in defence
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you are bitten. (Nparks describes this as a rare event)

In the video, no one gets bitten, so let's get that out there right away.

Do be alarmed

The first person the monitor lizard encounters is a woman who has decided to put her legs up on a chair.

She looks bemused at the visitor, even as it comes very close to her, but otherwise unperturbed.

Image via @johnsonooi/TikTok

However a man just behind her is far more alarmed, and decides to confront the animal, grabbing the only chair between him and the lizard and shaking it vigourously.

The lizard runs away, but in the direction of the cameraman, who wisely decides to move back.

1) Legs-up lady: Not panicking, as well as getting out of the way. A.

2) Guy with chair: Confronts lizard at close range, but does not chase after it after it changes direction. However, he does send it running into the direction of other patrons. C.

3) Cameraman: Quickly and effectively gets out of the way of lizard. A.

Next we have a trio of people who all scramble out of the way of the lizard, with one even attempting to climb a chair.

Image via @johnsonooi/TikTok

4) Red and white shirt man: Very calm, but his exit takes him closer to lizard. B.

5 & 6) White-shirted couple: Sudden movements probably not the best, but moved early to get out of the way. Probably for the best. B+

Table stakes

The monitor lizard, now in the heart of the coffee shop, has elicited two very different response from three people.

Two women look on with guarded disinterest. As the lizard waits and considers its next move, they similarly wait at their table.

Meanwhile, an onlooking man has decided to leave nothing to chance and has climbed fully onto a table, with his legs tucked up, perhaps hoping that the lizard can't see him, and therefore not approach him.

Image via @johnsonooi/TikTok

7 & 8) Onlookers: Again, staying calm, not approaching animal, but also keeping a good distance. B+.

9) Table man: Maximising distance, enacting concealment. He even leaves when the lizard has turned its back, successfully evading the beast. A+.

Just, no

Finally we have a lady who appears to be a stall owner, approaching the lizard with a broom. She then waves it in its face, just before the video ends, denying us knowledge of her fate.

Image via @johnsonooi/TikTok

10) Broom wielder: Approached lizard, confronted it head on, and even if successful, would have chased it towards other onlookers. D.

Monitoring the results

There you have it, a review of ten people who found themselves in an unexpected encounter with a monitor lizard.

This particular kopitiam happened to be near a water way, likely where the monitor lizard came from.

With Singapore's rapid urbanisation over the past five decades, we find ourselves sharing spaces with many wild animals, whether they be otters, boars, or lizards.

Generally these animals want to be near humans as little as possible, which is useful to keep in mind if you ever find yourself sharing a dining space with them.

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Top images via @johnsonooi/TikTok