My Son, the Lizard

Monitor Lizard Has Become a House Pet

Bangkok Post, September 2, 2001

Yui hale and hearty after change of diet

Yui, the monitor lizard, believed to be possessed by the soul of a dead boy, has turned into a house pet of the boy's parents and regained its health since its diet changed from milk and yoghurt to meat.

The Nonthaburi couple continue to keep the reptile even though they signed the animal over to the Forestry Department in July.

Chamlong Taengniam, mother of 13-year-old Charoen or Yui who was killed in a car accident in June, said yesterday she and her family would not turn the lizard over until her son's spirit left it. "As long as the soul of my son resides in the lizard, it must stay with me," she said while feeding the animal grilled chicken.

Asked how she would know if the boy's spirit has left the lizard, Mrs Chamlong replied: "If it dies or runs away from me."

Mrs Chamlong, a farmer in Bang Bua Thong district, became convinced her son's spirit resided in the lizard's body after she found it under the boy's photo at his funeral. It did not leave after being brought to her house. She has treated it like her son, allowing it to sleep in her bed, and fed the lizard milk and yoghurt because they were her son's favourite food. The lizard consequently became sick and weak.

However, Yui the lizard is no longer being fed milk and yoghurt, said Mrs Chamlong. "Now Yui likes to eat grilled chicken or pork and also some fruit, especially longan, durian and coconut. The lizard has never eaten raw meat and could get along very well with other pets in the house, like chickens and dogs."

The lizard wakes up at 5am each day and goes to bed around 8pm. When family members go to work in the rice field, the lizard stays home alone.

Sunun Arunnopparut, a top wildlife official, said his men had made inspection trips to Mrs Chamlong's house to prevent it from being disturbed by people, some of whom travel long distances to rub the lizard's skin in the hope of seeing lottery numbers.

Mr Sunun said monitor lizards are a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act. It is illegal to keep them in captivity, but officials were reluctant to remove the creature because they did not want to hurt the woman's feelings. "The lizard is doing fine with Mrs Chamlong. I think she has been taking care of the animal better than officials do, so leaving the lizard with her is not a big problem.

"The lizard is healthier than when it was first found in June," said Mr Sunun on Wednesday, adding the department would continue to keep a close watch on the lizard, especially a few days before lottery results come out.

Mrs Chamlong said few lottery number seekers visited Yui these days.

"However, if some won the lottery, they would come back with the lizard's favorite food and also make small donations to our family."

She said forestry officials were always welcome, unless they intended to take the lizard away from her.

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