Everybody knows that dragons are a mythological animal. But what real world animals inspired these terrifying beasts? One lizard would surely have been an inspiration for the infamous “Makara” carved in the ancient ruins of Sri Lanka. The Water Monitor or “Kabaraya” is the second largest lizard in the world after the Komodo Dragon in Indonesia. Reaching lengths of 6 feet on average, the largest individual on record was from Sri Lanka which measured a staggering 10.5 feet.
Armed with weapons such as a tail that can be used as a whip to slash victims, or monstrous claws which can rip apart flesh, to a set of razor sharp teeth which are infused with bacterial saliva, this real life dragon is truly built for the kill. Being excellent swimmers where they use their long tails to steer through the many water ways of Sri Lanka, they are found in almost every corner of the island, and are even numerous in Colombo, found wandering about in the waters of the Beira Lake and many other canals and water bodies.
One of the most iconic actions of these lizards is the continuous flicking of their long forked tongue. This is due to the fact that they have a pair of sensory organs located above the roof of the mouth. This is called the Jacobsons Organ and is used to detect scent particles within the air. This extra sense is used when hunting for food, and also during the breeding season it is used to help find a mate. When two rival males meet during this season, one can often view a gladiatorial competition where both males will rear up on their hind legs and have a vicious wrestling contest along with savage bites inflicted upon each other. The sparring and wrestling could go on for hours until one gives up. When well-matched, these Water Monitors are known to battle to the death.
Water Monitors are predominantly stealth hunters and use the water as a means of concealing themselves as they swim unsuspectingly toward their prey. Adaptability is the key and they eat almost anything, from garbage to decomposing flesh. Live prey such as baby crocodiles, fish, frogs, birds and snakes are also on their menu. They have even been known to take down macaques and langurs by the water’s edge when their guard is down. The Water Monitor is nature’s ultimate survivor; it is a hardy and resilient beast which has survived for hundreds of thousands of years and continued to flourish despite the destruction of natural habitats and the increased urbanization as the human population continues to rise. In its own right, the Water Monitor is an icon which stands as a living symbol of the dragons of old.