The monitors living on Komodo island are the largest and some of the longest lizards in the world. Because of their incredible size, they are called Komodo dragons
There are several other names, for example, the natives call these creatures land crocodiles or giant monitor lizards. One can also often hear another name similar to the name of the island on which the giant lizards were discovered for the first time: Komodo.
Since the discovery of monitors, scientists have learned a lot about their biology and habits. It turned out also that these lizards inhabit several islands – Komodo, Rinca, Flores and Gili Motang.
So, what is striking about the Komodo dragon?
These lizards can grow up to 3 meters long and weigh about 130 kilograms. They have powerful jaws with sharp teeth and hooklike claws, which make them dangerous predators. Recently, it was found that monitors are poisonous.
The appearance of the monitors is very exotic. They have a lizard head, a crocodile tail and paws, and their muzzle features a fantastic dragon, that does everything but spits fire out of its mouth. The skin of the monitors is usually grayish with light spots. Sometimes you can find individuals with black and yellow drops on the skin.
Looking at this magnificent lizard it is impossible to imagine that it can move very quickly, however, if it observes a worthy victim or scents danger, it can reach a speed of up to twenty-five kilometers per hour in a couple of seconds. But, of course, the monitors are not capable of running for a long time at such a speed, therefore, if the victim is hardy and agile enough, it will avoid being caught in the mouth of the monitor lizard, full of small sharp teeth.
The monitors are able to track down the victim at a great distance. Being eleven kilometers away from the future victim, they are able to smell out blood, as they have exceptional hearing, sight and sense of smell.
They are not fastidious about food: they eat any tasty meat, for example, of large rodents, but they can also feed on insects and larvae. During storms, when sandy beaches are filled with fish and crab, which were washed ashore, the monitor lizards arrange a feast, gobbling up these sea gifts. Basically, they eat carrion, but there have been cases of monitor attacks on cattle such as feral goats or sheep, and even dogs.
In a quiescent state, the Komodo monitors walk slowly, making a long neck and looking around, lifting the body high on their feet, keeping the tail hanging and swaying from side to side. At each step a yellow forked tongue appears from the mouth, probing the territory. If there is danger somewhere ahead, the monitor bends down to the ground, but then, after some time, rises again to get a better look at the object that draw its attention.
Monitors and people
Despite the exoticism of the monitor lizards, meeting them can result in serious wounds or even lead to death. As we indicated above, a monitor’s bite is poisonous. The monitors can attack people, taking them for a source of danger. Giant lizards pose a particular threat to children under 10 years of age, as a monitor can cope with a small child without much difficulty. Basically, of course, the monitors attack the local population, as human settlements expand and push monitor lizards out of their territory. In the hungry periods, monitors come close to human houses, attracted by the smell of fish and waste. The monitors that came to the people are caught and transported to the other end of the island, since killing the Komodo dragon is punishable by law.
Housing and protection of the Komodo dragons
- It is very difficult to catch a monitor. It can turn from a harmless sluggish creature into an aggressive monster that can knock a person off his feet with a tail stroke and cause serious injuries with its jaws.
- In captivity, the lizards can quickly get used to a person, although such cases are quite rare. In the London zoo a monitor lived that took food from the hands of people, responded to its nickname and followed its caretakers everywhere.
- National parks have been opened on the islands of Rinca and Komodo. Monitor hunting is prohibited by law, and reptiles are captured only for zoos with a special permit issued by the Committee for the Conservation of Nature under the Government of Indonesia.
- Since 1980, monitor lizards are listed in the Red Book of the International Council for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Despite the abundance of information about how dangerous these creatures are to humans, there are also positive aspects. Monitors are surprisingly playful. People saw how monitor lizards played with shovels, shoes or even frisbees without showing aggression.
An individual living in the Smithsonian National Zoological Park could walk behind its caretaker, holding a cord or laces in its mouth. Also this monitor nicknamed Kraken could play something like tug-of-war, pull various objects out of people’s pockets.