Living in the Malaysian city of Ipoh in the state of Perak affords me a chance to see close-up some interesting animal life I might not see other places. While Ipoh is a relatively big city, a couple hundred thousand people, the jungle is not too far away. I’ve been meaning to make a list of the animals I’ve seen since moving here.
1.) THE ASIAN WATER MONITOR –I am continually surprised by how common this large lizard is – I’ve seen them in drainage ditches, in fields, even walking down the street in front of the Ipoh Train Station. Where I currently live is only a few blocks from a large river and on my morning walks I often see them swimming and otherwise conducting their life there. I’ve watched them kill and eat fish as well as fight and mate. If I was judging the health of Ipoh’s rivers by the number of water monitors, I would have to say they are very healthy indeed. As far as size goes, I’ve personally seen ones as big as six feet long although the record is ten feet long .
Here are a few photos. Unfortunately, I don’t have a camera at the moment and have to rely on my phone. I was not able to get any shots of the other animals on the list
2.) MALAYSIAN CIVETS – The Civet family is found through Asia and also in parts of Africa. There are two primary types in Malaysia – The Palm Civet and the House Civet. I have seen the House Civet a few times (It gets its name because it generally lives near people including in the attics of homes and abandoned buildings). It has a pretty coat, kind of resembles a large mongoose (its closest familial relative) and a cat, and I’ve watched them climb a tree in a nearby park and also climb on top of power line poles. All of these sightings took place at night as the Civet is nocturnal.
3.) FRESHWATER STING RAY – On one of my morning walks very early in fact, I saw from the bridge over the nearby river a medium-sized sting ray slowly making its way upstream – Quite beautiful in motion.
4.) THE ASIAN SHORT-CLAWED OTTER- Another bridge sighting. Malaysia actually has at last three different otter species but this is the only one with a population in the area I live in (The other two species are very rare in general). It was eating a fish by the side of the river, had a light colored coat, and webbed feet. I tried to get close to it to take a picture but it vanished into the river before I could get too close.
In addition, I’ve seen turtles a few times once in the river and a number of times in a downtown park not to mention monkeys which are fairly common.
Interestingly enough, despite Malaysia having a large snake population including large pythons and the King Cobra and having been on several jungle treks, I have never seen a live snake, only dead ones on the road. In California, where I grew up, I had numerous sightings of rattlesnakes over the years.
The crown jewel of animal spotting in Malaysia is most definitely the tiger. Malaysia has the second largest population of wild tigers in the wild (second only to India) and while the official line is that they are only found in wildlife parks and preserves, there is a good sized population outside the parks some living close to human habitation “hiding in plain sight” as they say. I’ve met a few people in and around the Ipoh area who have seen tigers and I hope to see one myself one day.