Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This Just In: Dragons Slay Man

Two Komodo Dragons have been blamed for killing a man at Loh Sriaya, in eastern Indonesia's Komodo National Park.

Police and witnesses say that 31 yr old fisherman Muhamad Anwar was attacked by the duet of immense lizards waiting below minutes after he fell out of a tree on Monday. He was trespassing on forbidden park lands in search of fruit when he was surrounded and eventually killed. He bled profusely from bites to his hands, legs, neck and body. He died soon after transport to a clinic.

While there are only a few thousand left in the wild, dragon attacks have increased in recent years, with several attacks occurring in the past few months. Just two years ago, an 8 yr old boy was killed, the first death to have occurred in over thirty years. Natives blamed the attack on environmentalists who banned goat sacrifices, thus causing the Komodo dragons to be denied their usual meals and forcing them to wander into human territories for food. Recent attacks have targeted park rangers and tourists who frequent the protected areas where dragons are found.

Komodo Dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are the largest living lizards and can grow to a massive ten feet long and weigh as much as an adult human. Their teeth are razor sharp, and they are known for a bite that is deadly by more than the damage it inflicts. Komodo's saliva contains 57 different known bacteria strains, and often areas that are wounded get badly infected and must be amputated. There is also some speculation that dragons are venomous, as if the virulent bacteria aren't damaging enough on their own.

Dragons are currently vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List, as habitat loss, poaching, loss of prey and a lack of mates have decimated populations. It's been estimated that although there are thousands of dragons in the wild, there are only 350 or so breeding females left. Here's an interesting fact: in captivity, dragons have been shown to be capable of parthenogenesis, or virgin births. Females who have never encountered a male can give birth to young. They also seem capable of "play", a behavior uncommon in reptiles.


Adam Dilip Mutum said...

I have seen them up close in the London zoo and they are scary.