Komodo Dragon Facts
I have been planning a series of blog posts about my trip to the Komodo National park, so I decided to put together this collection of Komodo Dragon facts as a guide and prelude to my travel stories. I visited The Komodo National Park and Flores myself in early December 2009. The Komodo Dragon is my favorite animal.
What is a Komodo Dragon?
Coming from the Monitor Lizard family, the carnivorous Komodo Dragon, also known by it’s scientific name ‘Varanus Komodoensis’ is the largest lizard in the world, growing up to ten ft long and can weigh up to 160 pounds. Even though the lizard is a truly fearsome predator, sadly this giant reptile is classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, meaning it is close to becoming endangered.
Komodo Dragon Habitat
There are around four or five thousand Komodo Dragons living in their natural habitat today. Most of this population is spread across three main islands towards the east of Indonesia, these are Flores, Komodo and Rinca. The smaller Gili Motang and Gili Dasami islands are also host to around one hundred Komodo Dragons each. These islands have formed from volcanic activity, and the hot and mostly dry climate has caused a savannah style flora and fauna.
These islands make up most of the Komodo National Park. The Komodo National Park is located west of Flores, including a small slice of Flores island. Although western Flores is said to be host to around two thousand Komodos itself, as the island is so large, this number is very difficult for scientists to be certain of.
For backpackers, tourists and other travelers, the places you are most likely to catch a glimpse of the giant lizard are Rinca and Komodo island. Most tours and boat trips around the national park will stop off at one, or both of these islands. Both Komodo and Rinca have guides on hand to walk you around the island, they will talk you through some interesting points and also carry special sticks for safety.
What Does a Komodo Dragon Eat?
One bite is all it takes for this animal to kill, due to over fifty types of deadly bacteria living in the dragon’s mouth. A Komodo will often bite a large animal and basically go into meditation while it waits for the septic infection to kill its prey for them, then feast on the carcass. Very recent studies have also shown that venom may also be present, due to the discovery of venomous glands in the Komodo Dragon found in a MRI scan.
The Komodo Dragon is a carnivore, meaning it is a meat-eating predator. The prey includes almost everything substantial that can be found living in it’s habitat, such as pigs, deer, goat, large water buffalo and even other Komodo Dragons. This amazing predator eats mainly the carcasses of dead animals, but can also use stealth and strength to overpower and devour it’s target, even using it’s big heavy tail to knock other animals down to the ground. Over short distances, speeds of up to 18KM per hour can be achieved by their muscular legs and large claws for grip.
Using it’s huge extremely powerful jaws and teeth, the giant lizard rips off huge chunks of flesh, and even bone from it’s prey. Sometimes a very hungry dragon can bite off more than it can chew, and has even been seen ramming food in it’s mouth using mounds of dirt or trees, forcing it’s meal down it’s throat. It has been reported that trees have been knocked down by the predator during this astonishing process.
Komodo Dragon Breeding
Breeding occurs during the months of May, June, July and August, with eggs usually laid inside special burrows that the female make in September. Many battles for dominance go on during this period, with the males having fierce duels for the right of courtship and fighting over territory.
Even during the actual mating the male is not safe, during courtship the female will often resist and try to fight the male. Komodo Dragons sometimes display some notable behavior during reproduction, forming into a male and female couple and showing signs of monogamy, which very rare amongst other members of the lizard family. This could be due to the fact that finding a mate can be such a dangerous and violent process.
Once the mating is all over, the female will preferably find a ready-made abandoned nest or burrow, and guard it before laying the eggs, warding off other females, only if it is absolutely necessary the female will make a new burrow. The eggs will incubate for eight to nine months before hatching.
Baby Komodo Dragons
Life is tough for a baby Komodo Dragon, once it has made it’s way out from the burrow, it has become instant prey for larger predators, including other Komodos. They will spend a lot of their young life living in trees for safety reasons, making their way down to scavenge scraps from carcasses already feasted on by adults. It’s said that this is how the dragons develop the bacteria in the mouth, the adults pass the bacteria to the carcass, and the babies pick it up from there.
Have I Missed Anything?
I know there is a wealth of knowledge out there and many other facts about the Komodo Dragon, and no doubt I have missed out something of interest. Please feel free to add your own facts or make a discussion about my favorite animal in the comments or tweet me on twitter. Maybe I have got something wrong and it needs correcting in this article.
After brushing up on my facts about the Komodo Dragon, I am now looking forward to writing a multi-part series of blog entries about my adventures in this part of Indonesia, please subscribe to my RSS feed or follow me on twitter if you want to follow my story.