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Articles Blog

Komodo Dragons

Karyn Planett

Make no mistake about it... you’re here for just one thing. One thing, and that’s it. It’s not like Paris where some travelers spend long afternoons in open-air bistros recreating Hemingway’s “Movable Feast”. Or, New York with one museum after another to fill your days. Not even Hong Kong with its boutiques and tailors, temples to eyewear and jewelry stores that cater to your designer whims late into the night.

Nope. You’re here to see the biggest baddest lizard on the whole darn planet. You’ve come halfway ‘round the world to lay eyes on the Komodo Dragon. And, he’s coming outta the forest to see you, too.

How Big Is The Biggest?

Well here are some amazing facts and stats about our pal, the Komodo:

·               Weighs up to 300 pounds.

·               Measures up to 11 feet long; average length 8 feet.

·               Can run 11 miles per hour, as fast as a dog.

·               Eats 80% of his body weight in one feeding (like us).

·               Lives 30 or more years in the wild.

·               Is a carnivore and a cannibal.

·               Is solitary except during mating season (like teenagers).

·               The female lays up to 30 eggs.

·               Hatchlings are 15 inches long and live in trees.

·               Adults often live in burrows.

·               In favorable winds, he can detect carrion 5 miles away.

·               Also on his menu: pig, deer, smaller dragons, water buffalo, even humans.

·               It’s believed he lived during the Jurassic Age.

·               His scientific name is Varanus Komodoensis.

·               He’s the heaviest lizard on earth.

·               Though rarely bred in captivity, there has been some success.

·               His 60 serrated teeth are shark-like and are frequently replaced.

·               His strong jaw can bite a goat in half.

·               Estimates vary between 300 and 5,000 Komodos in existence making him a member of the Endangered Species Gang.

·               Komodo dragons live only on Komodo, Gila, Motang, Rinca, Padar and Flores Islands within 1,000 square kilometers. 

·               And, here’s the scary part – he can swim and climb trees. You can run but you truly cannot hide from this reptilian Sherman tank with an attitude.

There’s something called “parthenogenesis”. This is not the latest craze in designer jeans – though close. It’s a virgin birth. Now, what that means in the scientific community is that a female of a species can actually, ahem, fertilize her own eggs if there is no male present. Pause. In fact, this has been accomplished in captivity much to the delight of people who care about these sorts of things. So, if you were thinking about humming a few bars of Dinah Shore’s “It’s So Nice To Have A Man Around The House”, you needn’t bother while tromping through the Komodo forest. 

And here’s something else you’ll find fascinating. Komodo Dragons don’t need to actually kill their prey. These log-like, stubby-legged, pounds of trouble also have toxic saliva. As if their bite wasn’t enough, they can kill you with their drool. Isn’t that attractive! Somehow, someone has discovered that Komodo dragon saliva contains 50 strains of bacteria. The PBS guys called it a “foul cocktail of virulent bacterial that changes a bite into a festering wound.” The bitten animal, if it survives the attack, will die within 24 hours from blood poisoning. My, my, my.

Surprised Visitors

You can understand what a fright these stomping, bow-legged, tongue-flicking camo-creatures gave the unsuspecting visitors to these islands... folks who didn’t know about the dragons. It’s been reported that the first sighting from an “outsider” came in World War I when a downed pilot swam to Komodo Island. What a shock! Until then, scientists thought they were extinct. 

And, how about those five scuba divers profiled on CBS in 2008 who got washed away from their dive boat only to land on Komodo Island and run smack into the dragons. 

But, you’ll be safe. Tourism authorities want to keep you happy so you’ll actually be protected from these creatures by fences yet afforded the opportunity to get a good look at them in their habitat (unless they’ve wandered off as animals can’t always do exactly what you want them to especially in the wild). 

You are fortunate to be here as the Komodo dragons, seriously, are in a bit of peril. Their habitat is threatened. Volcanic activity and natural disasters have added their own type of drama. Poachers do harm, as well. And fire has destroyed some of the land here in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. So, have your cameras at the ready to witness and record one of Mother Nature’s cast of creatures that has stalked this earth since time virtually began.