Kurious, Kooky, Kool, Karnivarous, Komodos

Peregrina's Journey
Peter and Margie Benziger
Wed 28 Sep 2011 06:44

                                 Kurious, Kooky, Kool, Karnivarous, Komodos

If you want to see Komodo Dragons, there is only one place to go - Komodo Island, Indonesia.   (Well, there are a couple other places to go nearby but they don’t work as well with the alliteration theme...)

 We anchored Peregrina off the corner of the island, quite far from shore. There had been rumors about kurious & karnivorous Komodos  swimming out to boats and coming aboard looking  for dinner.  I think they were looking for THEIR dinner!  While we do not know if this is true, we decided to act prudently and NOT put out Peregrina’s  boarding ladder that night.

The next day, we went to Komodo Island. I would like to tell you that it was covered with a white mist, supernatural in appearance with strange lightning strikes hitting the volcanic peaks, but, actually, it was just your average beautiful, sunny, Indonesian day as we approached.

The Western world did not know much about Komodo dragons until the early 1900’s.  Fisherman and pearl divers had brought back tales of these ferocious giant dragons and one theory holds that the Chinese dragon is based on the Komodo dragon.  In 1920, the Dutch sent an expedition to the island and returned with skins and detailed descriptions.

Biologist will tell you that the Komodo Dragon is actually a huge Monitor Lizard. But let me tell you….this in no lizard like I have ever seen ….it is a dragon and a really big one! The head is tapered, the ear openings visible and the neck long and strong. The muscles are massive and the tail could knock a tree down.

The Komodo Dragon is a protected species. People will tell you that locals have, for centuries, respected these dragons.

 One myth is that a long, long time ago, a beautiful princess lived on Komodo.  She was called “Putri Naga” which means “Dragon Princess.” She married and had two babies. One was a normal baby boy and the other a baby dragon girl.  The boy was raised by his human family but the girl was sent back to the wild.  Neither knew about the other. Years later, her human son was hunting and raised his spear to kill the dragon girl. “Putri Naga” appeared in radiant light and told her son not to kill his sister but to live in harmony.  From that day forth, all inhabitants of Komodo Island have not hunted the Komodo and treat it with reverence and kindness.

Those locals who do NOT share this mythical viewpoint say they don’t kill the dragons since plentiful deer and wild boar taste much better than barbecued dragon meat.  Makes sense to me!

We went on a 6 kilometer trek around the island.  We were warned that the Komodo Dragon can sprint very fast for short distances and that, if it attacks, to run in a zig-zag pattern.  Apparently the dragon’s tail makes it hard to change direction quickly.  (These are really good facts to know!)  You will notice in the following picture that we are positioned at a sharp right angle to the dragon. Thus, the dragon would have to change direction to eat us.

We also read that, if cornered, the Komodo dragon can rear up on its hind legs before attacking.  This is something I decided I did NOT want to see so we gave the Komodo’s  a VERY wide berth and were ready to sprint at a moment’s notice.

Komodo dragons are covered with scales which protect them. They use their sharp teeth and dagger sharp claws as weapons.

Sharp claws about four inches long

While they have very powerful mouths, the Komodo Dragon has another trick to kill prey.  When it bites, it releases a highly potent and deadly bacteria that, slowly and painfully kills its’ prey over the course of a couple weeks. Thus, if the Komodo dragon does not want to risk a long battle, or has recently eaten, it can just take a quick bite of a tasty deer or water buffalo and wait patiently for dinner to be served at a later date.  Talk about ‘killer bad breath!!!”  

An adult Komodo can eat up to 50 kilos of meat at one sitting so waiting a couple of weeks on a full stomach is easy.
The Komodo can eat large animals and swallow a huge amount of meat. I looked deeply into the throat of a Komodo and can tell you that it is a long, way down a very black hole.

The Komodo female lays between 15-30 eggs in a nest (hole in the ground) and then protects them from predators.  The incubation period is about 9 months.  The male does not stick around with the female during this time and is off doing male Komodo dragon things with his friends. The following picture shows the size of the nest and the hole.


For some reason, there are many more males than females, so getting a girlfriend requires some special mating techniques. We learned a lot about the mating rituals.  The male looks lustily at the female dragon and then shows his tongue and makes hissing sounds and body language to attract the female.  The photo below shows a debonair eye contact followed by some tongue action.  

The picture below shows Peter courting one of the females with his highly practiced Komodo mating call and extended tongue.

Margie doesn’t have to worry…the Komodo Dragon paid me no attention at all.

As we left Komodo Island, a deep mantel of supernatural mist enshrouded the island and lightening struck the peaks. Well…not exactly but back safely onboard Peregrina, we were able to watch another beautiful sunset over Indonesia.

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