Komodo National Park is being celebrated on its 37th anniversary with a Google Doodle.
“Komodo National Park in Indonesia sits at the center of an archipelago and consists mainly of 3 volcanic islands. The landscape is unlike any other, ranging from dry savanna conditions to lush forests, all surrounded by white-sand beaches and bright blue water,” Google says. “Despite the plethora of native wildlife, Komodo dragons are still what the park is best known for. Thanks to National Parks like Komodo, wildlife can continue to thrive largely uninterrupted by human interference.”
Here’s what you need to know about Komodo National Park and Komodo dragons:
1. Komodo National Park Includes Komodo, Padar & Rinca, Along With Several Smaller Indonesian Islands
Komodo National Park is located in Indonesia within the Lesser Sunda Islands. It includes the islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca, along with several other smaller islands, according to its website.
Including land and water, the national park covers about 1,100 miles.
The park was established in 1980, to “conserve the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat. However, over the years, the goals for the Park have expanded to protecting its entire biodiversity, both terrestrial and marine,” the park’s website explains.
It was designated in 1990 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“These volcanic islands are inhabited by … giant lizards, whose appearance and aggressive behaviour have led to them being called ‘Komodo dragons’. They exist nowhere else in the world and are of great interest to scientists studying the theory of evolution. The rugged hillsides of dry savannah and pockets of thorny green vegetation contrast starkly with the brilliant white sandy beaches and the blue waters surging over coral,” UNESCO says.
2. The Island Is Home to More Than 3,000 Komodo Dragons, Along With Timor Deer & 72 Species of Birds
There are more than 3,000 Komodo dragons, and it was established originally to protect that species of giant lizards. But the island is also home to many other animals, including the Komodo dragon’s main prey, Timor deer, and 72 species of birds, according to the Komodo National Park website.
“Moreover, the Park includes one of the richest marine environments including coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, seamounts, and semi-enclosed bays. These habitats harbor more than 1,000 species of fish, some 260 species of reef-building coral, and 70 species of sponges,” the national park says. “Dugong, sharks, manta rays, at least 14 species of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles also make Komodo National Park their home.”
According to the World Wildlife Fund, “Scientists, underwater photographers, and recreational sport divers alike travel from all over the globe to experience the spectacular biodiversity of more than 50 world-class dive sites ranging from challenging blue water current dives with a chance of glimpsing large pelagic species to discovering rare invertebrates on a ‘muck’ dive closer to shore.”
There are also human residents of the island. According to the World Wildlife Fund, that population has increased over the past century. In 1930, there were 300 people living permanently on the islands that make up Komodo National Park. By 2000, there were 1,200 people living there.
“As more people move to Komodo National Park in search of economic opportunity, an important part of the conservation strategy for ensuring a sustainable future is balancing the economic needs of the local community with the challenge of protecting a delicate ecosystem,” the WWF says.
3. Male Komodo Dragons Can Be as Heavy as 170 Pounds & Females Weigh Up to 160 Pounds
Komodo dragons are the largest lizards living in the world, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. It is also one of the few venomous lizards.
The average Komodo dragon weighs about 150 pounds, according to the zoo. The largest dragon ever recorded weighed 366 pounds and was 10 feet long, the National Zoo says.
Females weigh up to 160 pounds. Males generally weigh up to 176 pounds, according to the San Diego Zoo. The zoo says the dragons diet varies:
An adult Komodo dragon eats whatever food is available. Its natural prey, however, is the Timor deer. The deer are wary and quite agile, requiring the dragon to resort to lying in ambush in the long grass next to game trails, in order to be successful in hunting. When the deer passes by, the dragon uses its long claws and sharp teeth to attack. If the prey escapes, the dragon can rely on its long tongue to find its whereabouts, even up to a mile away (1.6 kilometers) away!
Komodo dragons also eat water buffalo and wild pigs, both of which were introduced by man, as well as snakes and fish that wash up on the shore. On Rinca and Komodo islands, pigs have become common in some areas and are now competitors for food with the big lizards. Some dragons have visible scars from conflicts with wild boars. Komodo dragons may also be cannibalistic. Fortunately, the young spend their lives in trees, which likely helps reduce their risk of predation from the adults.
4. They Can Run Up to 12 Miles Per Hour
Komodo dragons can run up to 13 miles per hour on land, according to the National Zoo.
“Its hunting strategy is based on stealth and power. They can spend hours in one spot, waiting for a deer, boar, goat or anything sizable and nutritious,” the zoo says. “When threatened, Komodos can throw up the contents of their stomachs to lessen their weight in order to flee.”
The dragons can also swim.
5. Komodo Dragons Are Not on the Endangered Species List, but Are Considered to Be Vulnerable
Komodo dragons are not on the endangered species list, but are considered to be vulnerable, according to the San Diego Zoo:
The magnificent Komodo dragon is vulnerable. Some might think that the largest lizard in the world wouldn’t have to worry about its safety. One study estimated the population of Komodo dragons within Komodo National Park to be 2,405. Another study estimated between 3,000 and 3,100 individuals. On the much larger island of Flores, which is outside the National Park, the number of dragons has been estimated from 300 to 500 animals. Komodo dragons that live outside of the National Park are at greatest risk, as habitat fragmentation and frequent burning of grasslands to hunt Timor deer are the greatest risks to their survival. On the island of Flores, Komodo habitat is shrinking quickly because of the impact of a human population of approximately 2 million.
The Komodo dragons tend to stay in the same location, according to the San Diego Zoo.
“Komodo dragons tend to remain within the same valleys they were hatched in. Only rarely have any individuals been recaptured in a different location from where they were initially discovered,” the zoo says. “Similarly, females often nest in the same nest location each time. We have some initial information that suggests that to become a very big male it may take as much as 20 years of growth, while for females 5 to 7 years seems to be when they are reach maturity.”
They are estimated to live up to about 30 years.