Are There Poisonous Lizards In Thailand?

credit: Yay

One of the most exciting and beautiful places to visit has to be Thailand. It has gorgeous beaches and exotic wildlife, such as reptiles. However, the lizard is the most common reptile in Thailand. It makes many tourists wonder if the lizards in Thailand are poisonous.

Yes, there are poisonous lizards in Thailand. Although Thailand has around 417 different lizard species, most of them are harmless, except for the Asian water monitor lizard, which is venomous. All lizards have bacteria in their mouth which can cause bad infections in humans and animals.

Are There Poisonous Lizards In Thailand?

There are over 417 different lizard species in Thailand. One of the most common lizards is the Asian water monitor. The poison of an Asian water monitor lizard is enough to kill small animals (prey). While these monitor lizards are venomous, their bite is far more dangerous than their venom.

The mouth and saliva of an Asian water monitor carry a host of bacteria that can be very dangerous if a bite wound gets infected. One of the most common bacteria in these lizards’ saliva is Salmonella. When someone is infected with the Salmonella bacteria, they can have a mild or severe reaction.

The symptoms of mild Salmonella infection include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and fever. The bacteria can spread to the bloodstream, nervous system, or bone marrow leading to severe illness or death. Infants or people with compromised immune systems are much more likely to get severely ill from Salmonella.

The biggest monitor lizard species is the Komodo Dragon. The Komodo dragon’s bite is thought to be the most dangerous of all the monitor lizards as it can contain over 54 different disease-causing types of bacteria. Some of these bacteria can lead to Sepsis and is one way Komodo dragons hunt their prey.

Luckily there are only a few places tourists can find Komodo dragons, such as Indonesian islands like the island of Komodo, Padar, and Flores. Over the years, many Komodo dragons have been found and rescued in Thailand.

Related: Are There Komodo Dragons In Thailand?

They end up being illegally imported from Indonesia to Thailand by private collectors or zoos. While these huge lizards are not native to Thailand, a safe way to see a Komodo dragon in Thailand is by visiting Lumpini Park in Bangkok. Sadly they are an endangered species and need to be protected.

How Common Are Lizards In Thailand?

While Thailand has a large population of water monitor lizards, it’s also home to:

  • Water Monitor Lizards
  • Geckos
  • Agamid Lizards
  • True Lizards, Lacertas
  • Skinks
  • Snake Skinks
  • Glass Lizards and
  • Crocodiles

Most of the lizard species are harmless and shy away from humans. The larger lizards only bite when threatened, but lizard bites are infrequent.

What Is The Cultural Significance Of Lizards In Thailand?

The one thing that tourists will notice when they travel to Thailand is the extreme dislike the Thai people have for the Asian water monitor lizard. In Thai culture, the people loathe the monitor lizard because they believe the giant lizards are bad luck.

Their belief that the monitor lizard is bad luck or a bad omen is so extreme towards the lizards that the Thai word for the monitor is used as a curse word. So when tourists hear the word ‘hia’ in Thailand, someone is using it as an insult or slur.

Some Thai people believe the water monitor can grant them good fortune and that they should speak respectfully to the lizard and even throw coins in its direction to increase their good luck should they ever encounter one.

These lizards can be more than a nuisance for Thailand, as Ms. Rangamporn Pramapong, a renowned legal adviser for a fashion label, wants to use the monitor lizard for commercial reasons. So she has been fighting to get her government to see the potential of commercial monitor lizard farming.

She has not been successful yet as these lizards are on the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation’s protected species list. The Thai people’s dislike of the monitor lizard can be traced back to the Rattanakosin period when they were used to eat human and animal remains.

Can Tourists See Lizards In Thailand?

Monitor lizard watching is a big attraction in Thailand, and many lizards, from house geckos to monitor lizards, can be spotted in parks, sanctuaries, and even the guests’ hotel rooms. Koh Samui is one of the more popular areas where people can easily see monitor lizards.

wild young water monitor on beach
Yay wild young water monitor on beach

Many tourists have had exciting encounters with the lizards walking near or in their rooms. Some tourists have even spotted them walking on the beach. Another place where tourists can do some lizard spotting is Lumpini Park Bangkok and a few zoos.

The interesting thing about the lizards is that house geckos and other small lizard species are nocturnal, and people won’t usually see them during the day. However, the water monitor lizard is different. It’s not nocturnal, and they hunt and forage during the day, which is why they are the lizards most tourists see.

Are Lizards A Problem In Thailand?

Lumpini Park is well known for having many lizard species that tourists love to see. However, Lumpini Park had a significant problem with lizards a few years back. Some of the lizards at the park were rescued and brought to the park to live out their lives.

Many lizards were rescued from people’s homes, shops, and electrical poles. Some get their heads stuck in fences and are taken to the park or rescue centers to recover and then end up permanently at the park.

Large water monitor roaming the streets of Bangkok Thailand
Yay Large water monitor roaming the streets of Bangkok, Thailand

As we stated before, some lizard species in Thailand are endangered or protected, and the park has to follow the law when there is an overcrowding problem. For example, in 2016, the lizard population had grown too large, and they removed over 40 water monitor lizards.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) Department of Environment Director, Suwanna Jungrungrueng, has been receiving complaints about the lizards in the park. Visitors to the park and locals complained that they run into some of the lizards no matter which way they go.

This has led to accidents as the lizards would pop out of a swampy area or scurry from the bushes scaring the tourists or people riding their bicycles in the park. The lizards are not aggressive, but many people are scared of them.

They were then taken to a lizard farm in Bangkok, where they could live peacefully. Unfortunately, the farm lost its funding after the lizards relocated. As a result, the farm had to close. They are lucky as they still have a few brave keepers who care for them.

Today, there are around 400 lizards left in Lumpini Park. The authorities are keeping a close eye on their population. Too many lizards can wreak havoc on the park’s ecosystem. The lizards will eat just about anything, making it challenging to keep the other animals in the park safe.