Effects of Traditional Beliefs Leading to Conservation of Water Monitor Lizards in West Bengal, India
Water Monitor Lizards (Varanus salvator spp.), though listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are among the most heavily exploited reptiles in the world. In northern India, for instance, at its western most occurrences, several tribal communities hunt Water Monitor Lizards for leather and meat, which is often considered as a delicacy. In addition, the reptiles are also being chased as pests and the populations are affected by the loss and fragmentation of their natural habitats, which usually include aquatic environments such as marshlands, coasts, and rivers. Unlike the general situation in most of its wide distribution range, the village of Chak Manik, located in West Bengal, India, supports a relatively large population of Water Monitor Lizards, which can be rarely seen in the nearby areas. This case study explores the effects of traditional beliefs in the village, which are responsible for the maintenance of such a relatively large population of Water Monitor Lizards. At the same time, these beliefs positively affect the conservation of the habitat for the lizards, with a diverse accompanying flora and fauna. The special circumstances and the mutual benefits for both the villagers and the monitor lizards are discussed in the paper.