Everything you need to know (or nearly) on the largest lizard in the world
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a species of Varan found on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Florès, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami. There are approximately 5000 dragons in this area. Member of the varanidae family, it is the largest living lizard with a length of between 2 to 3 meters and a weight of approximately 70 kilos. Their unusual size is attributed to their geographic isolation. Due to their size, these dragons, with the help of symbiotic bacteria, dominate the eco system in which they live. Although the Komodo dragons eat mainly rotten carcass, they also prey and hunt invertebrates, birds and mammals.
Mating begins between May and August, and the eggs are laid in September. About twenty eggs are deposited in abandoned megapod nests and incubated for seven to eight months, hatching in April, when insects are most plentiful. Young Komodo dragons are vulnerable and therefore dwell in trees, safe from predators and cannibalistic adults. They take around three to five years to mature, and may live as long as fifty years. They are among the rare vertebrates capable of parthenogenesis, in which females may lay viable eggs even if males are absent.
The Komodo dragon prefers the warm and dry environment and lives generally in prairies, savannah or tropical forests at low altitude. They are more active during the day, even though they have some nocturnal activity. They are often solitary, and approach other dragons to mate or eat. They are capable of running at 20 km/hour for short distances, dive to depths of 4 to 5 meters, climb trees at a younger age by using their strong claws. To catch prey out of reach, they can stand on their hind legs and use their tail as a support point. Once the Komodo dragon arrives at adulthood they use the claws of the hind paws to dig burrows which can reach 1.3 meters wide. Due to their large size and habit of sleeping underground, they are capable of conserving their body temperature during the night to minimize the period of morning reheating. The Komodo dragon generally hunts in the afternoon yet remains by shaded tree roots during the hottest hours of the day.
The Komodo dragons were discovered by Occidental scientist in 1910. Their size and reputation has therefore made them very popular in zoos. In the wild, their natural habitat has been reduced, due to human activity and they have therefore become considered vulnerable. They are protected by Indonesian law.