The Dragons of Indonesia

Image: The entrance of the Komodo National Park, home of the Komodo Dragon


About 450 km east of Bali is a cluster of tiny islands. Lying between Sumbawa and Flores Islands, these are the only homes of the Komodo dragon. The island of Komodo dominates the region. It is the largest and rockiest island and its savannah stands in striking contrast to the tropical rain forest covering much of Indonesia.


We stepped on Komodo Island to check out the largest predator in the region, the Komodo dragon.


The name and appearance of the Komodo dragon is straight out of legend. In reality these are huge, heavily built monitor lizards - the biggest lizards in the world. The largest accurately recorded dragon was 3.1m long and a weighty 166kg. It was once thought that Komodos used deadly saliva containing toxic bacteria to poison their prey. Studies have now shown that they are venomous. Glands in the jaw secrete a complex mix of toxic substances into a wound made by the dragon's teeth.


A very fast mover over short distances, it can run at 18km/h. We certainly made sure we kept our distance!. Meals are irregular for Komodo Dragons so it must eat as much as possible when it finds food and before other members do so. Therefore the animal has evolved in such a way that it can eat large quantities very quickly … up to 80% of its starved body weight in one sitting. To eat like this, a 54kg person would have to eat 400 burgers.


Although Komodo Dragons are quite strong swimmers, unfortunately it is rare to see them underwater. Not only would they rather not expend the energy unless necessary, but also the water would cool their body temperature down. As a cold-blooded reptile, this core temperature has to be constantly regulated.