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Komodo Dragons and National Parks: The Majesty of Indonesia

It was only about one hundred years ago that human beings became aware of their Earthly coexistence with real live dragons. Despite this longstanding ignorance, Komodo dragons have been around for millions of years. It is on the Indonesian Islands of Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, Padar, and of course, Komodo, that these guys lurk, flashing their creepy, death tongues. It is widely said that the saliva of a Komodo is so ridden with toxins and bacteria it will eventually kill you, even with a minor bite.

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Komodo Dragons are the largest lizards on earth, reaching lengths of 10 feet and weighing up to 300 pounds. A popular theory states that their size is due to Island Gigantism. This is when the size of animals isolated on an island increases dramatically in comparison to their mainland relatives. Island gigantism is one aspect of the more general “island rule”, which posits that when mainland animals colonize islands, small species tend to evolve larger bodies, and large species tend to evolve smaller bodies. With the arrival of humans and associated predators (dogs, cats, rats, pigs), many giant island endemics have become extinct.

Contrasting with the Island Gigantism belief, more recent research suggests that Komodo dragons are representative of a population of very large, Varanid lizards, which died out after the Pleistocene. These ancestors lived across Indonesia and Australia, with other giant animals. Fossils similar to Komodo dragons have been found all over Australia, dating to more than 3.8 million years ago.

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Because of their size, Komodo dragons are the dominant predators in their habitat. They often hunt in groups, and prey on both birds and mammals. When a dragon is hatched from its egg, it spends its early years in trees, hiding from possible predators. It takes about 9 years to mature and is estimated to live up to 30 years. Because of increasing human activity, their range of living space has been limited and Komodo dragons are currently listed as a vulnerable species. Indonesian law protects them, and a national park was created to help preserve their existence.

Komodo National Park

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Komodo National Park is made up of three major islands: Rinca, Komodo, and Padar, and many smaller islands as well. These Islands originated from volcanoes, and span a total area of 219,322 hectacres. They exist directly at the juncture of two tectonic plates and are part of the “shatter belt” within the Wallacea biogeographical Region. The land is a global conservation priority area. The climate here is dry and hot, yet there is also a rainforest and monsoon element.

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Although the Komodo dragon is the ham of the animal band in this region, there are other notable species living in the background, such as the orange-footed scrub fowl, the Timor deer, and an endemic rat. Because of the strong sea currents and expansive coral reefs, sea turtles, whales and dolphins also hang around.

Tourism
If you plan to travel to Komodo National Park, you can expect nothing short of paradise with a pretty exhilarating “Journey to the Center of the earth” vibe. Pastimes for tourists include lots of picnic lunches, swimming and snorkeling in the clear as glass water, hiking the fantastic and varied terrains of the islands, learning all about Komodo dragons and observing them close up in their natural habitat. It is also possible to stay in one of those mesh-ceiling huts on stilts in the ocean that seem to cover screen savers everywhere. Tourism here cannot accommodate more that 60,000 people a year, which keeps things reasonably intimate. However the buzz is ever-increasing and tourism jumped by 9,000 people between 2009 and 2010.

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Dragon Lust
Despite people two centuries ago being unaware of the Komodo dragons existence, Indonesian myth and folklore (influenced strongly by and often overlapping with Indian culture) is filled with dragon stories.

This one is called, Biwar Kills a Dragon: http://www.st.rim.or.jp/~cycle/MYdragonE.html

Check out our one of a kind dragon sculptures. These guys are made of Teak Wood, and were carved by hand in Indonesia.

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