They may not pack as much bad-ass-cred as the revered Komodo Dragon of Indonesia or the creepy Gila Monster of the USA, the Water Monitor of South Asia or the Kabaragoya as popularly known among the Sri Lankan locals must surely be in the reckoning for induction into the League of Badassdom. I for one need no further convincing on this point after numerous exciting encounters over the years.
The Kabaragoya (Sinhalese name) can be quite easily seen in many inner urban areas in Colombo, a pleasant surprise when you taking a routine walk. These lumbering lizards have contributed momentary, almost child-like excitement to many of my strolls through the innards of a growing city. This for me is a great part of their charm, the fact that they very often seem to sauntering or basking around, almost oblivious to human presence and the very real problem of their habitat being encroached. It makes me feel like a distant, non-scaly cousin who came to stay a couple of weeks and just hung around forever and they just shrugged it off being the chilled out beings that they are.
The specimen pictured on the left is easily around 1.5m in length and was spotted in the Kandy Lake, just lying around near bank like it was a Jacuzzi and not giving any semblance of a rats-monkey about the several wide-eyed tourists passing by, armed with cameras, getting their Nat-Geo on with glee, in awe of these beautiful, resilient creatures that just seem to ooze badass vibes. These cats are to the reptile species what Biggie is to the rap music fraternity.
I often reminisce about one time around 2005-2006 when a bunch of friends and I spotted a giant specimen almost the length of a sedan, close to a very central part of Colombo. What a sight it was, a shame we weren’t so trigger happy back then. Interestingly, one of the largest specimens sightings on record occurred in Sri Lanka, reportedly more than a whopping, Komodo-esque 3m in length!
Locals sometimes speak of the supposed benefits of consuming Kabaragoya meat, although I have no evidence that this is common practice. I sure as hell feel no inclination towards bbq Kabaragoya and I doubt if other, rational people would be too, given that we aren’t in exactly in a Bear-Grylls type of situation. The reptiles are generally considered harmless by people who live in their proximity and are rarely regarded as a nuisance. All things considered, it isn’t very hard to see why there has always been a relatively fair degree of co-existence between them and us. However, it is also increasingly evident that these gentle, fascinating beasts have been taken for granted, something that humans are universally well known for, besides nuclear bombs and Coca Cola.
And that’s precisely why I’ve always felt that the Kabaragoya and by default, its cousin, the Thalagoya (Land Monitor) of Sri Lanka be officially/unofficially recognized as the alternative, badass, national animal. This I believe would surely help towards their preservation and thereby continue to provide us walkers, strollers, joggers, vagabonds and the general public many more thrilling and memorable encounters with these special creatures.