Rows of serrated teeth coated with venom catch and hold the prey, induce shock and hamper blood clotting.
Description: The Komodo Dragon is the largest lizard in the world today. It has sharp claws which it uses to attack its prey, dig resting holes and fight other lizards. Its scales are dark grey-brown. Although the Komodo Dragon cannot hear very well, its ears are visible. Its tail is as long as its body.
Diet: The Komodo Dragon is a carnivore that either scavenges for carrion or ambushes live prey. It eats deer, water buffalo, birds and reptiles. It is the dominant predator in its ecosystem and eats almost any meat available including young Komodo Dragons. However, they are a shy species and attacks on humans are rare.
The Komodo Dragon has a mouth full of about 60 long, curved and serrated teeth. When it ambushes its prey, it attacks either the legs, throat or belly first – depending on the prey’s size. The Komodo Dragon bites its prey, oozing venom from glands located in its bottom jaw, which helps induce shock and stops the prey’s blood clotting. The prey usually dies quickly.
If prey manages to break free, the Komodo Dragon can track it for up to three days, smelling the air with its long, forked tongue. They can smell meat up to 4 km away. Eventually, when the prey dies, the Komodo Dragon tucks into its meal. However, it usually has to compete with other dragons attracted by the scent.
Breeding: Breeding occurs between May and August. Males conduct vicious battles to claim females and territory. The winning Komodo Dragon flicks its tongue at the female to initiate courtship.
Female Komodo Dragons can lay viable eggs without needing to mate with a male. This is known as parthenogenesis. It is thought that this ability helped Komodo Dragons start new populations on islands and other uninhabited areas.
Threats: Komodo Dragons are only found on a few Indonesian islands. Between 2,500 and 5,000 dragons remain. They are hunted for the illegal pet trade or killed for body parts. This has led to fewer large, egg-laying females. The poaching of their main prey species (deer) and human encroachment on their habitat have also contributed to them becoming a threatened species. The Komodo National Park – which includes the islands of Komodo and Rinca – was established in 1980 to protect the dragons and their habitat.
Saving Wildlife Together: Perth Zoo funds a program that tracks, monitors and researches Komodo Dragons in their natural habitat in Komodo National Park. The information improves understanding of this animal’s life in the wild and what can be done to save it from extinction.
Find out how you can help.
At Perth Zoo: You can see Perth Zoo’s young male Komodo Dragon, called Raja, in the Asian Rainforest, next to the otters. Visit the Komodo Dragon’s Australian relative, the Perentie, in the Reptile Encounter at Perth Zoo