Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Komodo Dragon, Indonesia's National Animal

Spot the rare Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragons can only be found on five islands in the whole world, four of which are part of the national park, plus the nearby Flores Island in East Nusa Tenggara. According to scientists, this particular species has managed to survive for millions of years, making it one of the oldest species that still exists today. Many scientists believe that the otherworldly Dragons are close relatives to the dinosaur, from the same era and showing similar bodily structure. For that reason, Komodo Dragons are often called “the last dinosaur in the world.” The species is also known as the largest living species of lizard, with an average length of 2-3 meters.

Those feats have led interested scientists and curious tourists to the park. Even so, the area is far less touristy than neighboring Bali or Lombok, enabling a state of purity and natural preservation.

Why the Komodo National Park in Indonesia Is One of the World's Finest Treasures

In terms of numbers and popularity among tourists, Komodo National Park may seem a little faint against the brightness of other touristy islands like Bali or Lombok. However, it’s a special place in so many ways, as it presents many things tourists can’t find anywhere else. Read on to be convinced that the Komodo National Park in Indonesia is one of the world’s finest treasures.

Komodo National Park comprises three islands—Komodo Island, Padar Island, and Rinca Island—and numerous surrounding smaller islands. It’s situated between the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara, east of the more popular Bali and Lombok.

The Komodo National Park is a World Heritage Site

Komodo National Park is dedicated to providing a natural habitat for, and conservation of, the ancient and rare Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis). The park’s importance is acknowledged by global organizations such as UNESCO, who classified it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Not only that, WWF and Conservation International have recognized the place as a global conservation priority area. And last but not least is the park’s status as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, which has established its global significance.

11 Facts About The Komodo Dragon, Indonesia's National Animal

Once creatures that inspired myths and folklore, little was actually known about the world’s largest lizards: Indonesia’s Komodo dragons. Endemic to Komodo Island in East Nusa Tenggara, these ancient beasts have always instilled as much fear as they have scientific intrigue. It has only been in the recent past that we have dispelled certain myths and learned the truth about Komodo dragons. And, as it turns out, the truth is often stranger than any fiction we can come up with.

Komodo dragons are actually venomous
While their deadly and unique toxins had erroneously been attributed to their saliva, a 2009 study found that Komodo dragons excrete venom through ducts in their mouth into the wounds they have created in their preys’ flesh. Although their victims might get away, the venom slowly and painfully paralyzes and kills them over a day’s time at most.

Komodos “hunt” using their tongues
Their taste buds are so immaculately evolved that Komodo dragons can taste the air and differentiate between the particles left behind by different animals. While their eyesight and olfactory senses are quite poor, their split, forked tongues can track down their dying victims or carrion over distances of up to 9 km away.

Cannibalism is normal
Not only are they cannibalistic, but Komodos are known for eating their own offspring. After the eggs hatch, baby Komodos instinctively climb high up in any trees to avoid being eaten by their mothers or other nearby Komodos. They can remain up in the trees until they are four years old, when they return to the ground and can then live up to 30 years old.

Younger Komodos hide their smell
Another method for escaping cannibalistic adults, younger Komodos have been found to cover themselves in feces and the intestines of dead animals. As Komodos rely on their sense of taste and smell, it is an effective way to avoid being eaten.

Komodos are grave robbers
As avid scavengers, Komodo dragons have been known to dig up human graves and feast on the rotting carcasses. In order to protect the deceased, locals cover the graves of their loved ones with rocks to avoid Komodo tomb raiders.

They can give virgin births
Komodos are parthenogenetic, meaning females are able to conceive without the aid of male sperm. Instead, their egg cells can fertilize each other, as has occurred with Komodo dragons living in captivity. Interestingly, however, Komodos can also reproduce sexually. Whether they choose to reproduce sexually or asexually depends on the conditions of their environment.

They swallow goats
With a massive appetite for meat, Komodos are entirely carnivorous and can eat up to 80% of their bodyweight. They have been recorded swallowing entire goats in one sitting, ramming the carcass up against a tree to aid in swallowing their food. Despite their size and appetite, however, the metabolism of Komodo dragons is very slow. This allows them to subsist on as little as 12 meals per year, albeit quite large meals at that.

Komodo dragons have island gigantism
Today, they are the largest lizards still in existence. The largest Komodo ever recorded was over 3 meters (10 feet) long and weighed 166 kg (366 lb). On average, however, these giants measure at around 6 feet (1.8 meters) for females and 8 to 9 feet ( 2.4 to 2.7 meters) for males. Their massive size is attributed to them being the apex predator around the islands in which they inhabit and, therefore, having no predators of their own to contend with.

Komodos are avid swimmers
Not only can they climb and run rather fast (almost as fast as humans), Komodos have also added the ability to swim to their predatory repertoire. While in search of food or partners, Komodos can easily swim around the islands of East Nusa Tenggara, mainly those of Komodo, Flores, Rinca, Padar, and Gili Motang.

Komodo dragons are ancient
They have been around a very long time. Though only discovered by Europeans in 1910, Komodos are considered a relict of giant lizards that have existed in Flores for at least 900,000 years. And fossils similar to Komodo dragons have been dated 3.8 million years old.

Komodos can also be playful
In the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C., an adult Komodo known as Kraken began showing signs of playfulness with various objects as well as with its caretakers. Kraken showed clear signs of interest, curiosity, and play without any aggression or motivation for food, playing tug-of-war and with objects such as shoelaces, Frisbees, boxes, and blankets.

Whether it is myth or fact, these ancient beasts have thoroughly deserved their reputation as real-life dragons. With further studies, who knows what else we will learn from the Komodo?

Indonesia cancels Komodo island closure, saying tourists are no threat to dragons

but now..

Indonesian authorities have cancelled plans to close Komodo island to tourists, with the country’s environment ministry saying that Komodo dragons living there are not under threat from over-tourism.

In July, authorities in East Nusa Tenggara province said that the island would be closed for one year from January 2020 to stop tourists interfering with the natural behaviour of the largest species of lizard on earth. On Monday Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s environment and forestry minister, said the move was off.

According to government figures 1,727 Komodo dragons live on the island, which is a Unesco world heritage site. “[The number of] Komodo dragons on Komodo island during 2002 to 2019 observations has been relatively stable,” Bakar told Reuters. “There is no threat of a decline.”

The ban would not have affected other areas of Komodo National Park. It was announced amid concerns that increasing numbers of tourists were affecting the animals’ mating habits, with food handouts making them docile. There were also concerns about poachers targeting Komodo dragons and deer, their main prey.

The cancellation of the ban has added to a sense of confusion around the government’s long-term vision for the park. In 2018 more than 176,000 tourists visited the area. In 2018 Viktor Bungtilu Laiskodat, governor of East Nusa Tenggara, proposed targeting high-end customers with a US $500 entry fee.

“Only people with deep pockets are allowed to [see Komodo dragons],” he said. “Those who don’t have the money shouldn’t visit the park since it specifically caters to extraordinary people.”

The uncertainty sparked protests among the island’s residents. Some feared being relocated to make way for new tourist infrastructure, or losing income from visitors during the proposed ban.


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