Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Of Lizards, Monkeys and other Creatures in KL

Crickey! Look at the size of this snail!

     Located about 217 miles away from the equator, Kuala Lumpur (KL) is home to a wide variety of tropical animals that have adapted to the encroaching terrain of city life. Becoming accustomed to the plethora of wildlife here was an interesting experience. While living in KL for over a month and a half, I became fascinated with the animals that would randomly appear while I was walking home or doing odd chores around the house where I was staying.

Watch out for warning signs of possibly dangerous things.

  My first couple of jarring experiences with animals in KL happened in the home I was staying at for my internship with Musawah. Ivy, who I was renting a room from, had taken me to buy groceries and was making room within her fridge for me when she happened upon a dead gecko. I learned from her that this was a normal occurrence since that geckos in KL will often get themselves into everything. She also firmly stated that I needed to make sure to keep my bread sealed since “they love to nibble whatever they can find, especially bread.” True to Ivy’s word, I would find many geckos in random places over the course of my stay such as in the cupboards, my closet, behind the toilet seat cover, inside my laundry…I’ve had previous experience with geckos when I lived in New Mexico and the Philippines, but the ones in KL were especially intriguing. Some would come in pretty shades of greens and browns. Others would appear in an off-putting clear color, like some kind of tiny alien.

Well, hello there.

    A few days into my stay, Ivy roused me exclaiming that there was a frog in the kitchen. I rushed over to help, wondering how in the world it came in the house, when she brushed past me, mumbling about leaving it and hoping it will leave on its own. It was a decently sized frog, probably about the size of my palm. I figured it must have leaped through the window and proceeded to scoop it up and take it outside. Ivy seemed impressed, but others I told chastised me, saying it could’ve been poisonous and that in the future I ought to stay away from all frogs.

What are you?!

   On one hot day while walking to the KL Butterfly Park, a monitor lizard crossed my path. I had no idea what this large thing was until I googled it later. This lizard was about the size of a small dog and really fast! The ladies at my internship, after I told them, warned me to be very careful since these lizards are mainly found in the gutters and sewer drains. They’re known to eat anything, and one bite from them has enough bacteria to possibly kill a person.

Here's to a relaxing afternoon in the jungle!

   Additionally, our AU class abroad found that while jungles and waterfalls are lovely, a sure way to ruin your trip to the jungle is to forget about the monkey tribes watching your every move...

Noo, not the monkeys!

From our awesome driver/guide Robert, we learned survival tips such as to not look a monkey in its eyes, keep away from the baby ones, do not turn your back on them, and to wave around a big stick and holler to show them who’s boss. Upon trekking through the jungle and arriving at the waterfall, our group made the mistake of turning our attention away from the monkeys. 

In a split-second, Fahmiya’s camera bag was stolen by a sneaky monkey and was being spirited away. As Graham and I reacted and gave chase, the monkey reached into the bag, pulling out a packet of gum, dropped the bag and made off with the gum. As we rescued the bag, the monkey proceeded to sit a short distance away, unwrap a piece of gum, and throw the wrapper in our direction.

Just chilling with my new best friends.

     All in all, I found the animals in KL are wonderfully diverse and fun to observe. Learning about them, however, really brings into perspective for me Malaysia’s environmental issues and the need for stronger efforts by the federal government to protect these animals and Malaysia’s natural resources. Much more work should be done regarding the preservation of local habitats and motivating Malaysians to understand the consequences of the last few decades’ growth, especially regarding pollution and deforestation.  

Stephanie Vazquez

2nd Year, CRS

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