09/21/2016, 09.17
THAILAND
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Giant lizard emergency in Bangkok

The population of reptiles, up to three meters long, is out of control. No longer manageable, they roam Lumpini park scaring and threatening pedestrians and cyclists. The authorities have organized a task force to reduce the number of specimens. Those caught will be moved to a nearby nature reserve.

 

Bangkok (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Frightened visitors, injured cyclists and devastated fauna: Bangkok’s Lumpini Park - the largest green area in the center of the Thai capital – is being put to the test by an invasion of giant lizards. Called "hia" by locals, these reptiles have lived in the park for several years, but in recent times their number has ballooned to around 400 specimens. This is also due to their long life: 20 years on average.

Up to three meters long, these lizards roam the park indifferent to what is happening around them, scaring passers-by and hunting for fish, birds and turtles.

Tawee Somnamee, a 49 year-old who works in the 57-hectare park, said: "In the past, hia used to steal food from the people, and for this they were cursed." But now there have been several accidents in which cyclists have collided with the lizards getting hurt.

The situation is getting out of hand so the authorities have decided to set up a task force to reduce the number of reptiles present at Lumpini. "The time has come for us to control them," said Suwanna Jungrungrueng, director of the municipal department for the environment. As of yesterday, 12 members of the park staff are armed with fishing rods, ropes and sacks. The strategy is to attract the reptiles with bait, to lure them out by canals and pools where they hide.

Once captured, the "hia" will be transferred to a nature reserve in nearby Ratchaburi province. Although these reptiles are not loved in Thailand, some say they bring good luck: "If a hia is in someone's home - Tawee says - he will become rich." The worker adds that not all of the lizards will be removed from the park: "Some have to remain to be admired by tourists."

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