The Komodo Dragon

The last living link to dinosaurs, living in a habitat that they have roamed for thousands of years.

There are about 5,000 Komodo Dragons (Varanus komodoensis) in the wild living in islands within the Komodo National Park and coastal areas of Flores. Komodo Dragons are classified as endangered by IUCN. Their habitat are at risk due to human activities including land clearing. Sometimes, they are being killed for intrusion. This lizard is of great interest to scientists researching the theory of evolution.

Komodo National Park (75,000 ha), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the center of the Indonesian archipelago, between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores, known as the Nusa Tenggara. Labuhan Bajo in the west coast of Flores is the entry point to Komodo National Park. 

The Komodo dragon grows up to 2 metres or more, and weigh over 70 kilogramme.  Their unusual size has been attributed to island gigantism since there are no other carnivorous animals to compete with them for food besides humans.

The largest species of lizard has a great sense of smell and they uses their forked tongue to sample the air. They are able to smell their prey as far as 5 kilometres with an eyesight that sees as far as 300 metres. Their saliva contained poisonous bacteria that kills their prey slowly.

They run at a speed of 20 km p/h. How fast can an average human run? Twice faster than these lizards, but I won’t bet on it. I was closed enough for them to notice me and to run towards me.

These holes are the nests of Komodo Dragons. Female lay about 30 eggs at one time, mostly in August to September. The gestation period is about 8 months. 

During this time, the nest is always guarded by the female to prevent predators such as wild boar and larger Komodo Dragons from feeding on the eggs. 

The Prey.

Deer is the Komodo Dragon’s preferred prey although they eat almost any meat including buffalo. It is mostly carrion that they like. They will attack the deer on the leg, break it to prevent it from escaping further. Their saliva has large numbers of deadly bacterias. Their deadly bite will leave the prey to slow death from blood poisoning caused by the bacteria. Usually the prey will be dead in a week. Then the Komodo Dragon will devour on the carrion, usually shared with a few other dragons.

Carcass of a water buffalo most probably were consumed about a week ago. Water buffalo can be twice bigger than the Komodo Dragon, yet they are one of the most hunted preys of the dragon.

Komodo dragon’s poop has white substance which is calcium, due to its inability to digest it from the bones of animals they consumed.

The Threats.

Humans can be their biggest threat. Villages in the nearby settlement hunt for the same prey as the Komodo dragons, such as buffaloes, wild boars and deers. They are also threatened by the very active volcanic activity in Indonesia. The other threat that affects the Park within and around is the destructive fishing practices.  

The Habitat.

Komodo National Park was established in 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragon, its habitat and other biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine. In 1986, the Park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. Komodo National Park includes the three main islands of Komodo, Rinca, Padar and other smaller islands. Currently, the total size of the park is about 1,817 km2 with plans to extend the protected area. 

Lontar palms (Borassus flabellifer) are the dominant trees in the Komodo National Park landscape. It also include a landscape of open grass-woodland savannah, tropical deciduous (monsoon) forest and quasi cloud forest. The Park is affected by a lengthy dry season with high temperatures and low rainfall and seasonal monsoon rains. It is situated between the transition line of Australasia and Asian flora and fauna. Species that inhabit the Park besides the Komodo Dragons includes the endemic Komodo rat (Komodomys rintjanus), crab-eating macaques, Javan deer which are the main prey of the dragon, wild boar and some 72 species of birds have been recorded including yellow-crested cockatoo.

Komodo National Park has one of the world’s diverse marine and terrestrial ecosystem. As a visitor to these places, please adopt low impact tourism programmes and adhere to the Park’s Do’s and Don’ts for your own safety and support the conservation effort of the area.

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