Saving a water monitor

  • October 11, 2012 | Lesley Labuschagne

Lesley and Oscar the water monitor

Sunday 23 September began as a normal working day for me in the Dangerous Creatures exhibit at uShaka Sea World, but before midday my life had changed. 

While spending some time outdoors with the black-throated monitor lizards, I was approached by a gentleman who asked some questions about his water monitor (Varanus nileoticus), which he’d found and kept in his flat in Durban’s city centre. He thought it was sick as it was not feeding and had blood coming from its mouth. I encouraged him to bring the monitor to me for assessment and treatment and assured him I would do my best to help.

About an hour later my heart broke as I was handed Oscar (yes, we named him Oscar) who was so compromised that he was barely able to move. We immediately placed him in warm water to clean up the blood and promote fluid intake. 

When we were sure that he could cope with a veterinary assessment he was placed on an examination table, and other than an apparent broken jaw and tail he had no other injuries. This was good news for me as no internal injuries led me to believe that with enough care he could make a full recovery. 

And so the long journey began. Oscar was placed in one of the rehabilitation pools with heating and hiding places for his comfort. We started tube feeding him and will continue to do so until his jaw is fully healed, which I hope will be soon. He is gaining strength every day and becoming more of a handful as he regains full consciousness. 

I am looking forward to the day we load Oscar into a roller box – an easy access box which transports animals – and head for a river bank in a nature reserve, where I will say goodbye and wish him well on his new adventures. As water monitors are protected it would be ideal to release him away from human habitat, where his chances of survival are better.

It is illegal to be in possession of a water monitor and we encourage people to hand them over to the nearest aquarium or local authority for the animal's safety.

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