Dragon, Komodo


Varanus komodoensis

Family

Varanidae

Order

Squamata

Class

Reptilia

Range

Native to only a few small Indonesian islands, including Komodo, Rintja and western Flores

Habitat

Tropical island forests and beaches

Life Expectancy

Komodo dragons may live about 30 years in the wild, but scientists are still studying this.

Sexual Maturity

5-7 years of age

Diet

In the wild, Komodo dragons eat almost any kind of meat. They scavenge from carcasses or stalk animals ranging in size from small rodents to large water buffalo. The young mostly feed on small gecko lizards or insects. In the zoo, they are fed rodents, chicks, fish and rabbits.

Status

IUCN - Vulnerable, CITES - Appendix I

Behaviors

Sexual maturity likely occurs at 5 to 7 years of age. The breeding season is from May to August, as dominant males fight other males to gain mating rights with females. Copulation is a relatively quick affair. Six to eight weeks later, in the months of July through September, Komodo females lay their clutch of 15-30 eggs. The female usually lays them in a burrow dug into a hillside or in the sand. Eggs are oval, smooth, and 2 inches wide by 4 inches long. Females rarely guard the nests and, if so, only for a short amount of time. The eggs incubate for eight to nine months, and hatch at the beginning of the dry season in April. The hatchlings are 10-22 inches in length, weighing less than 3.5 ounces. Komodo dragons are known to attack and eat a variety of animals – goats, wild boar, deer, water buffalo, horses, and smaller dragons. To hunt these larger animals, dragons ambush their prey and deliver a very dangerous bite. They follow their prey until it succumbs to blood loss or fatal infection. The dragon’s saliva is rich in bacteria that cause deadly infections. The Komodo dragon uses its tongue to taste the air and pick up smells. By swinging its head from side to side, using its Jacobson's organ and with the help of a favorable wind, Komodo dragons may be able to detect carrion from 2.5 up to 6 miles away.

Adaptions

Special Interests

The largest living lizard, Komodo dragons in their homeland are called ora, buaya darat, which means "land crocodile”, or biawak raksasa, which means "giant monitor". The word "dragon" derives from Greek (drakon), "a serpent of huge size, a python, a dragon".

Folklore

Conservation

Komodo dragons are vulnerable due in part to their limited range. It would appear that they have been hunted (legally and illegally) over the years, but not to the extent of decimating the population. Komodo National Park, established in 1980, and strict anti-poaching laws have helped protect the dragons, although illegal activity still takes place.

Jacksonville Zoo History

Exhibit

Monsoon Asia