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April 21, 2018  |  Login

Komodo Dragon
Varanus komodoensis

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What Are They Like?

The Komodo dragon, also known as the Komodo monitor, is both the largest and heaviest of all lizards. Adult dragons can measure up to 10 feet (3 meters) in length, and weigh up to 198 pounds (90 kilograms). Komodo dragons are dull and uniform in color from brown to grayish red, and are covered with rough scales.  They also have strong limbs, a strong tail, a long, forked yellow tongue, and their heads have a rounded snout and ear openings. Males are typically larger than females, and juveniles tend to be green with yellow and black bands. Komodo Dragons can live up to 50 years old in the wild, but only average 8.9 years in captivity.

Where Do They Live?

Komodo dragons are native to Indonesia, living only in the lesser Sunda region of the Indonesian archipelago, including the islands of Komodo, Flores, Rinca and Padar. They are a terrestrial species and live mainly in tropical savannah forests. They prefer open areas of tall grasses and bushes on lowlands, but can also be found on beaches, ridge tops and dry riverbeds. However, young Komodo dragons are arboreal, meaning they live in trees, and therefore live in forested regions until they are eight months old.

Did You Know?
The Komodo dragon can eat up to 80% of its own body weight at one time.

How Are Babies Made?

Komodo dragons reproduce annually between the months of June to September. The gestation period is approximately eight months and a female lays up to 30 eggs. Females then dig a nest chamber in the ground to bury their eggs, and cover them with dirt and leaves. They lie on the nest while the eggs are incubated, and eggs can take up to eight months to hatch. After hatching, the young dragons are left on their own and move to forested areas so as not to fall prey to adults or other species. Female Komodo dragons reach sexual maturity at approximately nine years, and male dragons at about ten years.

What Do They Eat?

Komodo dragons are carnivores and typically eat carrion, which is the flesh of dead animals, but they also attack and eat large prey including pigs, deer, goats, wild boar, horses, water buffalo, and smaller Komodo Dragons. They attack by running quickly and hunting stealthily, crushing their prey to the ground and ripping it with their claws and teeth. Komodo dragons are able to swallow large pieces of food by expanding their throats and flexible skulls. However, Komodo dragons typically scavenge for their food.  Once food is acquired, the largest male eats first, followed by smaller males and females, and then by juveniles, although young dragons mainly feed on grasshoppers, beetles, small geckos, eggs, birds and eventually small mammals.

Did You Know?
Their saliva contains over 50 types of bacteria, as well as venom, which can cause a fatal infection to their prey.

What Do They Do?

Komodo dragons are at the top of the food chain and have no predators. They spend most of their days roaming their home ranges, which can overlap because they don’t defend their boundaries. An exception occurs if food is found within the range; then the dominant dragon eats first. They also rely on smell as their primary sense for detecting food, and the tip of the tongue is the prime scent detector. Komodo dragons are typically solitary and also diurnal, meaning they are active during they day; they dig burrows and retreat into them at night or in hot weather.

How Concerned Should We Be?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has a “Red List” of species in danger globally and listed the Komodo dragon as “vulnerable.” Their wild population is declining rapidly. The major threats to the Komodo dragon include habitat loss, prey depletion and poaching. No one has seen a Komodo dragon on the island of Padar since the 1970s as a result of widespread hunting of the deer that is their principal prey source.

What's Being Done?

Komodo Dragons are listed on CITES  Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which prohibits international trade. They are also listed on the U.S. Federal List as endangered. Their main habitat, Komodo, for which they are named, and the surrounding islands, are protected within Komodo National Park. However, Flores is outside the national park boundaries and, as a result, the dragons on this island only receive basic protection. The European Conservation Breeding Program in London felt this was a concern, so they began trapping Komodo dragons and keeping them in captivity, mainly in zoos. Together, the zoos that house these dragons fund the project and implement infrastructural development, social awareness, and environmental education programs. This has assisted in research into the wild population of Komodo Dragons and their distribution patterns.


The Komodo Dragon

Kills With One Bite

Komodo dragons and monitor lizards

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