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Scuba Diving in Indonesia Newsletter

Komodo Dragons

The largest monitor lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon was unknown in the west until 1910, when local stories reached the ears of the Dutch colonialists about a 'land crocodile'. The Dutch and local rulers quickly realised that the species was rare, and protection plans were made in 1915.

Komodo Dragon - Photo by Paul Flaxman

Naturally, the Komodo dragon is not something you will see cruising Komodo dive sites (although they can swim). However all dive cruises in the area will include a land excursion in the Komodo National Park to see these prehistoric giants, known locally by the name 'Ora'. Park rangers lead visitors on an easy guided walk with some great views to see the dragons and other island wildlife such as wild pigs, deer and birds.

The Komodo Dragon is one of nature's giants, one of the leftovers from the era of the dinosaurs. We've all heard of them, but due to their limited distribution and numbers, not many people get to see them. By joining a liveaboard cruise to Komodo, you not only get to do some great diving, but have the chance to see a living fossil, one of the world's most famous and unique animals...

Komodo Dragon Fact Sheet

Family name: Varanidae
Order name: Squamata
Common name: Komodo Dragon
Scientific name: Varanus Komodoensis

Size

The Komodo Dragon is a very big lizard indeed. The average male adult is about 2.5 metres in length and weighs in at around 50 - 70 kilograms. The largest ever recorded was well over 3 metres long and weighed 166 kg! The huge variation in weight is due to the fact that a dragon can eat up to 80% of its own body weight in a single meal.

Distribution

Within the national park, the population is reasonably well monitored. A recent estimate puts the number of these rare creatures at about 1,100.Most dragons live on Komodo Island and Rinca, with a few on Gili Motang. There are some remaining on nearby Flores however the numbers are unclear. It is quite clear however that the numbers are falling.

Feeding habits

The Komodo dragon is powerful and agile, but surprise is still the method of choice for capturing larger prey. Dragons will eat almost anything from its own eggs and those of turtles, to pretty much any animal within its domain, including deer, buffalo, boar, snakes, even wild horses and monkeys. Despite this variety, human attacks are rare and usually due to 'getting in the way' rather than an attempt to feed. Locals give the Komodo dragons the care and respect that such a powerful animal deserves, but do not fear them.

A dragon foraging on the beach - photo courtesy of Komodo National Park

The tall grass on the islands provides good cover for the dragon, and most attacks occur from ambush when prey passes within striking range. A small adult Komodo weighing 40 kilograms can kill a much larger Sunda deer at around 90 kilograms. By striking quickly and knocking the deer off its feet, the Komodo dragon begins tearing it to pieces using its claws and large, serrated teeth. Animals that survive this attack are quite likely to die from infection, as the Komodo's saliva is particularly nasty, containing as many as 50 strains of bacteria. For smaller prey, the dragon may just strike directly for the neck and kill its victim instantly. They will also eat carrion - the Komodo dragon has an amazing sense of smell, and can detect carrion from several kilometres away.

Activity

Being cold-blooded the dragon uses burrows to keep warm during the night. When dawn breaks they drag themselves out of bed and laze on the open earth in the baking sun, as if recharging their batteries. Being reptilian they are more active during the afternoon, after they have warmed themselves up.

Special Offer for Diving in Komodo

There are some spaces left on trips aboard the deluxe catamaran the Adventure Komodo where you can benefit from free nitrox for the entire trip:

25 March - 08 April 2006 - Kupang, West Timor to Bali ... one of the favourites!! Dive Alor, Flores, Rinca, Komodo, Sangeang.

11 - 25 April 2006 - Bali to dive in Komodo, Rinca, Alor and back to Bali (Fred Bavendam of the German dive magazine 'Unterwasser' will be joining this trip).

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