Face to face with a Komodo Dragon

On the island of Komodo, a tiny microcosm in the sea separating the Flores from the Indian Ocean, an unusual creature of myth and legend still roams the land.

Face to face with a Komodo Dragon

Nature Facts

Where: Komodo Island, Indonesia
Appearance: The last of the dinosaurs – a giant 8ft lizard with big teeth and bad breath
Watch out for: The teeth, it can rip the foot of a showbiz spouse in seconds…

On the island of Komodo, a tiny microcosm in the sea separating the Flores from the Indian Ocean, an unusual creature of myth and legend still roams the land.

The Komodo Dragon, known as the Ora by locals, is the world’s largest lizard and it’s razor sharp teeth can rip and swallow the hindquarters of a deer in seconds. It is around eight feet long, weighs 45 Kgs and can run at speeds of up to 15 mph but it hunts relying on stealth, preying on deer, boar, goat or other large mammals. It was feared these throwbacks from another age were facing extinction, but the money earned from the grizzly spectacle of watching the lizards feed has helped to ensure their survival.

Habits

A Komodo’s would never make a great violinist as its hearing is terrible, but its amphibian eyes can see up to ¼ of a mile away. Its large yellow forked tongue can break down and analyse odours in the air, and they can sense a deer up to three miles away. Its feet sound like a “muffled machine gun” according to some experts, which alert their prey seconds before making the final kill. After gnawing down a deer or two, the smelly dragon keeps bits of meat in its teeth which are highly septic, not to mention disgusting! When there’s nothing else to eat they often go for each other, the larger dragons eating babies or young Komodo so they’re not the nicest of dinner guests.

When they’re trying to attract the ladies, the male Komodo will wrestle his competitors and draw blood before flicking his long tongue all over her snout and body, giving her a good old lick down. Four months later in the Autumn, she lays her eggs and the baby dragons are just over a foot in length, a little larger than a human baby.

They are often thought of as the last remaining descendants of the dinosaurs, although this is not strictly true as they are common ancestors of the Diapsida (two arched reptile) who roamed the earth some 300 million years ago.

Watch Out!

Komodos are headstrong predators and are known to be vicious; recently Sharon Stone’s husband Phil Bronstein was attacked by a dragon in the Los Angeles Zoo. His fantasy of meeting a Komodo dragon close up ended in tears when it attacked his foot for its first course.

The western world first discovered the Komodo in 1910 when a Dutch colonialist heard stories of this strange “land crocodile”.  Shortly afterwards, the Komodo became a protected species and has been a source of fascination and much tourism for the island. Sadly, there are only a few thousand Komodos left on the island as they are dying out through poaching (dragons are reported as being worth up to $30,000 on the black market). Komodo island is now a popular eco-tourist attraction, unfortunately, public interest in the dragon causes disruption to the land and mating which means they are still struggling to survive.

More Information

Komodo Dragon Central
A guide and web directory of this astounding reptile, with a discussion board, pictures, info on zoos and links.

Books
Zoo Quest For a Dragon
David Attenborough
Lutterworth Press, 1957.

By Susi O’Neill

 

main image: Komodo Dragon, image by Adhi Rachdian, Flickr creative commons

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