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Komodo national park

Komodo is an Indonesian island home to approximately 2,000 people who are mostly descendants of former convicts once exiled here. The island is part of Komodo National Park and is especially known for its native Komodo Dragon - the world's largest living lizard!

For centuries, a local tradition required feeding the dragons by leaving deer parts behind after a hunt or by sacrificing goats. In the past, this practice has maintained a friendly relationship with the animals, which can live for more than 50 years and recognise individual humans. Ancient taboos also strictly forbid harming the komodos, which is why they survived here while they became extinct elsewhere.

Komodo Dragon

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Taxonomy
Order: Squamata
Family: Varanidae
Genus/species: Varanus komodoensis

In 1992, Komodo dragons hatched for the first time outside of Indonesia at the National Zoo. Four clutches have hatched and the resulting 55 offspring may be seen in more than 30 zoos around the world. The Zoo's Komodo dragon can be seen in the outdoor enclosure behind the Reptile Discovery Center.

Description
The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard. The largest verified specimen reached a length of 10.3 feet (3.13 m) and weighed 366 pounds (166 kg). This may have included a substantial amount of undigested food. More typical weights for the largest wild dragons are about 154 pounds (70 kg). Although the Komodo can run briefly at speeds up to 13 mph (20 kph), 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.

Monitors can see objects as far away as 985 feet (300 m), so vision does play a role in hunting, especially as their eyes are better at picking up movement than at discerning stationary objects. Their retinas possess only cones, so they may be able to distinguish color but have poor vision in dim light. They have a much smaller hearing range than humans. The result is an animal that can not hear such sounds as a low-pitched voice or a high-pitched scream.

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Vision and hearing are useful, but the Komodo's sense of smell is its primary food detector. The Komodo detects odors much like a snake does. It uses its long, yellow forked tongue to sample the air, after which the two tongue tips retreat to the roof of the mouth, where they make contact with the Jacobson's organs. The chemical analyzers "smell" a deer by recognizing airborne molecules. If the concentration present on the left tongue tip is higher than that sampled from the right, it tells the Komodo that the deer is approaching from the left. This system, along with an undulatory walk in which the head swings from side to side, helps the dragon sense the existence and direction of odoriferous carrion from as far away as 2.5 miles (four km), when the wind is right.

When the Komodo is hunting and catches its prey, a deer for example, it attacks the feet first, knocking the deer off balance. When dealing with smaller prey, it may lunge straight for the neck. The dragon’s basic strategy is simple: try to smash the quarry to the ground and tear it to pieces. Strong muscles driving powerful claws accomplish some of this, but the Komodo's teeth are its most dangerous weapon. They are large, curved, and serrated, and tear flesh efficiently. If the deer fails to escape immediately, the Komodo will continue to rip it apart. Once convinced that its prey is incapacitated, the dragon may break off its offensive for a brief rest. The deer is now badly injured and in shock. The dragon then launches the final blow, a belly attack. The deer quickly bleeds to death, and the Komodo begins to feed.