Species: Varanus komodoensis
The Komodo dragon was considered a mythological creature by the western world right, up until 1912. In 1910, after hearing about these 'land crocodiles', Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbroek of the Dutch colonial administration in Indonesia, went in search of the Komodo. He sent the skin of a 2.1 meter specimen, along with photographs, to Bogar Zoo in Java. This proved the Komodo dragon to be the largest living lizard, with the largest verified specimen reaching a length of over three metres and weighing 166 kg.
Indonesia is the only place in the world to see Komodos in their natural habitat. The Komodo National Park, located in the centre of the Indonesian Archipelago was set up to conserve the species. They face an uncertain future due to habitat loss.
Although the Komodo can run briefly at speeds up to 13 mph, its hunting strategy is based on stealth, power and a secret weapon; Komodo dragons are venomous! This helps it to be the only lizard species to hunt and kill prey larger than itself.
Komodos kill large prey by rushing from ambush along game trails, biting at legs and tendons, maiming the animal and then trailing the injured animal until the venom or septicaemia sets in and kills it.
Komodos are efficient eaters, leaving only around 10 per cent of their prey untouched. They eat bones and even hooves. After feasting (on chickens, water buffalo, their own young, or sometimes man!) the Komodo settles down in a nice sunny spot to aid digestion. Once it has finished digesting it regurgitates a pile of horn, hair and teeth, known as a gastric pellet.
In May 2006 a Komodo called Flora living at Chester Zoo produced five hatchings despite never having had contact with a male dragon. This phenomena is called parthenogenesis (from the Greek 'parthenos' meaning virgin and 'genesis' meaning birth). Parthenogenesis occurs naturally in some species, although this was a first for the Komodo.
- Largest was over 3m long and weighed 166 kg.
- Can run up to 13 mph.
- Komodos sometimes eat their own young.
- To avoid being eaten by the adults, baby Komodos hide up in trees.
- During the mating period males fight, grappling with each other on their hind legs.
- Komodos may be monogamous and form 'pair bonds', a rare behaviour for lizards.