The Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the world’s largest lizard, only occurs on five very small Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, Nusas Kode and Flores in the Lesser Sunda region. Over the last three decades the range and population of the Komodo Dragon has decreased so significantly that is has been proposed that the current IUCN status of Vulnerable be elevated to Endangered.
Komodo National Park (KNP) was established to protect the Komodo Dragon, its habitat and the surrounding ecosystems. It was designated an international Biosphere Reserve in 1977 and a World Heritage Site in 1991. The park covers 173, 300 hectares. The Komodo Dragon population in KNP is estimated at less than 3,000 individuals.
In 2012 Taronga commenced a 5-year partnership with the Komodo Survival Program (KSP), a nongovernment agency led by Dr Tim Jessop of Melbourne University. KSP work to protect and conserve the Komodo Dragon, its habitat and the food web upon which it relies. As well as capture and tracking of dragons and monitoring prey species abundance, KSP involves communities in protecting the environment, with training of local staff to conduct monitoring and research and protection of the dragon, to purchase cameras and develop camera trapping protocols which will complement ongoing capture-mark-recapture surveys of Komodo Dragons and ungulate populations.