On our honeymoon, we went to Labuan Bajo in Flores to take a 2 day boat trip to Rinca and Komodo Island. This was for the sole purpose of seeing the infamous Komodo Dragons. I’d heard so much about them – goodness knows how old they are but I’m pretty sure they’re prehistoric. Famed for their huge size and lethal bite, it was tremendously exciting to be seeing such fantastic creatures in their natural habitat. We had guides for both our trips to the islands (you’re not allowed on the island without one) and during the treks, I learnt a lot. Here’s my 10 awesome facts about Komodo Dragons.
01. There’s 2000 Komodo dragons on Rinca and 2,900 dragons on Komodo Island. On both islands it’s rare that you won’t see dragons, but on Komodo Island the dragons are bigger. Komodo Island and Rinca are actually National Heritage Sites and are therefore protected land.
02. Komodo dragons eat pretty much everything they can find. This includes bush turkeys (little brown round chicken-like creatures), wild deer, black boar, water buffalo, monkeys (when they can catch them) and even other Komodo Dragons. As our guide said, ‘one minute they’re friends, the next minute one is lunch.’ They have also been known to venture close to the few villages on the islands where they live (Rinca and Komodo Island being the one that most people visit) and pick off children and even old people.
03. The Komodo Dragons only known predators are other Komodos and man. When they get particularly hungry, they have no problem turning on their neighbour. Even the mothers will grab their own babies as snacks, let alone other dragons.
04. Komodos don’t eat often and are known to eat up to 80% of their own bodyweight in one go. It’s not unusual for a Komodo dragon to eat once a month, often filling up their belly so much that they can barely walk.
05. There are more males on the islands than females. Our guide said this is mainly due to the temperature on the islands.
06. Baby Komodos come from eggs. Mummy Dragon digs holes for them, with a variety of tunnels coming from it (a bit like an underground cave) and instead of sitting on her eggs, she guards it. If you ever find a Komodo ‘nest’, watch out for mum, she’ll be keeping a beady eye on predators.
07. Mummy Dragons fool wild pigs to keep their eggs safe. They do this by making a fake entrance to their underground cave nest; when the greedy little piglets go hunting for dragon eggs, they often leave empty handed, having shnuffled around the wrong hole.
08. They can weigh up to 60kg and run at speeds of 18 – 20 mph. That’s how much I weigh! And they don’t ever look like they can run at all – most of the ones we saw were chilling out, having naps but apparently that’s how they fool their prey – by pretending to be asleep. Their browny / grey skin also merges well into the vegetation and soil and there were several moments when I discovered I’d been looking at one without even realising.
09. They can kill with one bite. For years, scientists thought they had such a success rate with killing their prey because their teeth were covered in so much bacteria but it turns out their saliva is actually poisonous. This is how they can take down larger animals such as water buffalo – they wait in hiding until one walks past and then they give it a nip. After that it’s a case of trailing it until it dies. This can take from a few days to several weeks.
10. Baby dragons live in trees. This happens for the first 3 years of their lives. And before you get images of dragons bouncing about in trees like monkeys, they burrow into the soft trunk of certain trees, living off geckos and flies. This is to keep them safe from other predators, mainly other Komodo dragons. After 3 years, they’re generally a bit too big to hang out in trees and are big enough to run from other dragons and fend for themselves.
And number 11, as a bonus…
11. You can tell by their poo what they’ve eaten. Black poo signifies wild pig, brown is deer and white is due to a heavy-calcium meal. The calcium is from all the bones they eat – when Komodo dragons eat, they’re not fussy creatures – they eat everything in true nose to tail dining.