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Scientific Name: 
Varanus komodoensis
Phylum: 
Chordate
Species class: 
Reptilia
Order: 
Squamata
Genus: 
Varanus
Species: 
komodoensis
Status: 
Distribution Map: 
Summary: 

At three metres long and weighing over 80kg, Komodos are the world‘s largest lizard!

Komodos are well adapted to survive in harsh habitats – even living on the steep volcano sides. They can move quickly over short distances (up to 18 km per hour) and can track an animal for days over long distances. They are also strong swimmers, being able to swim through the ocean from island to island.

They receive no parental care, and are predominantly arboreal until they are big enough to fend off adult Komodo Dragons.

Behaviour

Komodos may congregate at a kill, all attracted by the smell of the carrion. Adults may fight over the meal, and risk being killed in the challenge to secure the food. Komodos can fight in an upright stance, sometimes hitting out with their tails.

Diet

Komodo Dragons are carnivorous, opportunistic and strong hunters. Adults can bring down prey as large as an adult water buffalo. They will also eat feral pigs,  rodents, monkeys, goats, deer, chickens, carrion and even young Komodo dragons.

Juveniles eat birds, insects, carrion and small reptiles.

They have an excellent sense of smell, able to detect a carcass up to 5 km away, or 10 km if wind conditions are right. Like snakes they have a forked tongue which tastes the surrounding air helping to determine the direction of the prey.

These ambush hunters lie still and wait for prey to pass before lunging out and biting. If a prey animal manages to break free and flee, the Dragon may track the animal for up to 3 days over which time it succumbs to blood poisoning caused by the Komodo’s bite.

A recent discovery is that Komodo Dragons possess venom. This feature has been traced back millions of years to when the Komodo shared a common ancestor with venomous snakes.

They also possess a high level of bacteria in their mouths, which combined with the venom, kills their prey.

Komodos cannot chew and instead tear off pieces of meat, throwing them back into their mouths and swallowing. 

Komodos have large territorial ranges and may walk for over several kilometres each day in search of food.

Region: 
Zoo location: 
Conservation information: 

Komodos are threatened by poaching of them and their prey. Poaching of Komodos often targets the larger, more mature animals which would be of breeding age which impacts on the population. Poaching of deer on the islands in turn makes the Komodos’ prey scarce.

It is estimated that there are only around 3000 Komodos remaining in the wild and they are threatened by forest clearance, tourism and declines in main prey deer species. Poaching of deer on the islands in turn makes the Komodo’s prey scarce.

While the Komodo Dragon’s island habitats have been protected as National Park and a World Heritage listing for over 20 years, over the same period the Dragon’s range and population has decreased so significantly that is has been proposed that the current IUCN status of Vulnerable be elevated to Endangered.

Taronga’s Conservation work

In 2012 Taronga commenced a 5-year partnership with the Komodo Survival Program (KSP), a nongovernment agency lead by Dr Tim Jessop of Melbourne University. KSP  works to protect and conserve the Komodo Dragon, its habitat and the food web upon which it relies.   KSP operates at 11 sites across protected areas including Komodo National Park and Wae Wuul Nature Reserve on Flores. KSP has implemented training of National Park and Nature Reserve Staff on animal monitoring techniques to improve accuracy of Komodo Dragon population counts and involves communities in protecting the environment, with training of local staff to conduct monitoring and research and protection of the dragon. Taronga is supporting KSP to purchase cameras and develop camera trapping protocols which will complement ongoing capture-mark-recapture surveys of Komodo Dragons and ungulate populations .

Distribution & Habitat

Komodo, Indonesia and a few neighbouring islands. Their home range is very small, less than 1000 sq km in total.

Breeding

Komodos will breed from five years of age.

A male Komodo will flick his tounge over the females body to ‘taste’ her to see if she is receptive to mating. He will then use his long claws to scrape along her back.

The female will lay up to 25 eggs into a shallow burrow that she digs, or if she can she will borrow a brush turkeys mound and bury them there! The eggs will hatch after nine months.

Once hatched, young Komodos immediately climb a nearby tree, or their parents may eat them! They receive no parental care, remaining up the tree until they are big enough to fend the adults off.

Behaviour

Komodos will fight in an upright stance, sometimes hitting out with their tails. Komodos may congregate at a kill, all attracted by the smell. They will fight over the meal, even killing each other to get at it.

Diet

  • Komodo Dragons are carnivorous, opportunistic and strong hunters. They can bring down prey as large as an adult water buffalo! They will also eat pigs, goats, deer, chickens, carrion and even young Komodo Dragons!  
  • Juveniles will eat birds, insects, small reptiles.
  • They have an excellent sense of smell, able to detect a carcass up to 5km away, or 10km if wind conditions are right. Like snakes they have a forked tongue, which tastes the surrounding air helping to determine the direction of the prey.
  • Komodo’s will lie still and wait for prey to pass before lunging out and biting. The prey animal will usually run away, with the Komodo tracking the animal for up to three days until it dies from blood poisoning.
  • It has recently been discovered that Komodos possess venom! This venom has been traced millions of years back to when the Komodo shared a common ancestor with venomous snakes. Fortunately for humans, the venom is not as strong as a snake‘s.
  • They also possess a high level of bacteria in their mouths, which combined with the venom kills their pray.
  • Komodos cannot chew and instead tear off pieces of meat, throwing them back into their mouths and swallowing. 
  • Komodos have large territorial ranges and will walk for over two km every day in search of food.
Source: 
http://www.iucnredlist.org
Year assessed: 
1996