Monitor lizard that wandered into Punggol flat not native to Singapore; NParks investigating

Monitor lizard that wandered into Punggol flat not native to Singapore; NParks investigating

Monitor lizard that wandered into Punggol flat not native to Singapore; NParks investigating


The Rock Monitor is a species of monitor lizard found in Africa, and is usually grey-brown with yellowish or white markings.


SINGAPORE: The National Parks Board (NParks) is investigating the case of a non-native monitor lizard that wandered into a Punggol flat last week, it said on Wednesday (Jul 3).


The lizard is a Rock Monitor, according to NParks, which is not native to Singapore.


“NParks was alerted to a sighting of an adult monitor lizard in an HDB flat at Punggol on Jun 27. The monitor lizard was subsequently secured and removed from the HDB flat,” Mr How Choon Beng, NPark's group director of wildlife management told CNA in its statement.


“As the monitor lizard is a non-native Rock Monitor (Varanus albigularis), NParks is currently looking into the matter.”


Non-native refers to species that originated elsewhere, and are introduced either intentionally or unintentionally into an ecosystem.


The Rock Monitor is a species of monitor lizard found in Africa and is usually grey-brown with yellowish or white markings.




Mr Kannan Raja, president of the Herpetological Society of Singapore, said: “From the looks of it, it could be a black-throated monitor, which is a subspecies (of the Rock Monitor) found in parts of Africa.”


“This monitor lizard is not from Singapore. It took a very wrong turn to end up here,” he quipped.


The three species of monitor lizards that can be found in Singapore are the Malayan water monitor, the clouded monitor lizard and the Dumeril’s monitor.


A video of the reptile lumbering around the living room and exploring the balcony of the 11th-storey Punggol flat - where it had been kept locked out - went viral after CNA’s story.


It appeared calm and inquisitive in the footage, as it lounged on the balcony’s ledge.


Mr Raja, whose society is involved in the study and conservation of reptiles and amphibians, also observed that the reptile was relaxed and seemed used to the presence of humans.


“This is very likely a captive animal that either escaped ... or someone might have left it as they couldn’t take care of it,” he told CNA938’s Singapore Today.


Mr Raja said while he has not encountered instances of monitor lizards being kept in homes in Singapore, they are popular in other countries where having such pets is legal.


Monitor lizards are not allowed to be kept as pets in Singapore. It is illegal under Singapore’s Wildlife Act to remove animals, including monitor lizards, from the wild.


Offenders can face a fine of up to S$10,000 or imprisonment of up to six months, or both, for a first offence.



The monitor lizard – which is about 1.5m in length – climbed into the Punggol home last Thursday through the front metal gate, causing pandemonium as residents scrambled to trap the reptile.


They shooed it with brooms to their balcony and locked the sliding doors. 


A two-man team from NParks captured the lizard using tongs and blankets, before putting it into a cage and removing it from the residence.


Mr Jeffrey Toh, the resident whose home the lizard roamed into, had suspicions from the onset that the reptile could have been a neighbour’s pet.


“It was very clean, didn’t bring any mud. Its markings were very nice, not like the ones you see outside. Those downstairs are usually dirty and have scars,” he noted.




Residents at Waterway Terraces II – the Punggol block at the centre of the incident – appeared unfazed by their neighbour’s encounter.


Most residents whom CNA spoke to said they are not afraid of a similar incident in their homes, with one resident saying a similar experience would instead be “interesting”.


Most were also aware they should call NParks or the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) should they have a similar encounter.


It is not uncommon to see wild animals in Punggol, with its waterway and forested areas. Monkeys, wild boars, snakes and monitor lizards can often be spotted in the neighbourhood and park connectors.


“I find the wildlife in Punggol interesting, it’s the charm of this area,” said Mr Terence Ho, a resident of the block. He added he would be “quite sad” if NParks took the lizard out of Punggol.


“They are not scary as long as we don’t provoke them. There’re a lot of monitor lizards along the waterway, and we live in harmony (with them),” said another resident Mdm Law, adding she teaches her 13-year-old grandson to observe the reptiles from afar.


One resident, who only wanted to be known as Alex, said it could be concerning if the lizard turns out to be someone's pet.


“If it gets loose and bites kids along the corridor, kids may not have the antibodies to fight the venom. But for monitors in the wild, those are in nature and should be protected,” he said.


Monitor lizards secrete venom that can kill small prey but has a relatively mild effect on humans, according to NParks’ website.  


A nature enthusiast and resident who wanted to be known by her surname Cheung said she immediately researched the breed of the monitor lizard by its markings upon seeing the pictures online. 


She said that while she is not fearful of a similar encounter – she has a mesh gate because of pets – it would be useful for the public to know how to handle such a situation.




Mr Raja said monitors do, at times, wander into areas frequented by humans, even near or into homes.


“They could be looking for food. Maybe one is wandering under a block and someone spooks it, and so it runs up the stairs,” he said.


Mr Raja said people should not attempt to capture or trap a monitor lizard, especially in close quarters such as in a flat.


“They can get defensive. They’ve got sharp claws, teeth and a very powerful tail. You don’t want to stress the lizard out. Once it realises it’s in the wrong place, it will try to leave by itself,” he added.


“It’s best to keep a distance and not get too close. Move children and pets into a room and close the door, then call NParks and Acres for help.”


He said in the event a person is bitten, they should seek medical attention as the reptile's teeth contain bacteria that can cause infections in bite wounds.


NParks said native monitor lizards, found in parks, forests, mangrove swamps and canals, play an important role in Singapore’s ecology.


They control the population of their prey – including certain insects, crabs, snakes and fish – and help in biomass breakdown and nutrient recycling.


NParks added that monitor lizards are shy and usually try to avoid humans. They do not attack unless provoked.


CNA has contacted NParks for more information on its plans for the monitor lizard once the investigation is complete.


Ng, D. (2024b, July 4). Monitor lizard that wandered into Punggol flat not native to Singapore; NParks investigating. CNA.

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