Description: The prehistoric looking Komodo dragon is the world's largest living lizard, reaching a maximum length of ten feet, half of which is the tail, and a maximum weight of 350 pounds. Most, however, are much smaller and the average dragon is about 150 pounds. Dragons are entirely grayish with powerful arms and legs with huge, curved claws and a yellow, forked tongue used for smelling. The saliva of this massive reptile is full of bacteria because its gums are nearly always lacerated and sliced open when it feeds. Although it has a poor sense of hearing, the Komodo dragon has excellent day vision and an incredible sense of smell that is thought to be able to detect carrion more than two miles away! It also has extra sensory scales around the ears, lips, chin, and soles of the feet.


Diet: The Komodo dragon is a strict carnivore and feeds on deer, pigs, monkeys, birds, other medium-sized mammals, and carrion. Prey is usually swallowed whole, sometimes after it has been rammed against a tree to make it more compact. After a meal, the dragon regurgitates a huge pellet made of bones, fur, and other indigestible matter. Dragons have extremely slow metabolic rates and may only eat once or twice every month. Prey is ambushed and killed outright or is left to die over a period of days from the dragon's toxic saliva. After biting a large animal, the dragon can follow its scent to find its place of death.


Habitat/Range: The Komodo dragon prefers dry savannas, grasslands and tropical forests and is sometimes observed sleeping in burrows and spends much of its time inactive during the heat of the summer. It is endemic to several Indonesian islands.


Status: The Komodo dragon is a threatened species because of its small population, narrow distribution, and the looming possibility of a natural disaster destroying the entire population. Poaching, habitat loss, and fires have also negatively impacted this species. Furthermore, this species does relatively poorly in captivity and only a couple of zoos have been successful in breeding them. To conserve this unusual reptile, the nation of Indonesia established Komodo National Park in 1980.