Komodo dragons are the largest lizards © iStock

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards © iStock

Appearance and behaviours

The Komodo dragon is the largest of all the lizards. They belong to the family of monitor lizards. Lizards are part of the reptile group of animals. Komodo dragons grow to about 2.5 metres in length. Males weigh about 100 kilograms and females about 85 kilograms. All Komodo dragons have a long neck and a tail that is longer than its body. Male dragons have bigger heads and longer tails than the females. All dragons have short, powerful legs with strong, sharp claws. They can deliver a crushing blow with the tail.

Rinca Island is home for the Komodo Dragons (kidcyber image)

Rinca Island is home for the Komodo Dragons (kidcyber image)

Dragons are generally a sandy - brown colour with dark markings, though this may vary. The Komodo dragon has a forked tongue which it flicks in and out. When the tongue flicks out it collects scents (smells) in the air, and when it flicks in, information about the scents is picked up by a special organ inside the dragon's mouth that lets the animal's brain know what the smells are.  Dragons are good at climbing trees and can run quite fast.

Where Komodo dragons live

Komodo dragons, living in the wild, are found mainly on the Indonesian islands of Komodo and Rinca. These islands are part of the 22 islands that make up the Komodo National Park in the Indian Ocean. 

The Komodo dragons live in the forests and open grasslands on the islands.

A Komodo Dragon rests in this position (kidcyber image)

A Komodo Dragon rests in this position (kidcyber image)

What Komodo dragons eat

They are carnivorous (eats only meat), and are ferocious predators (hunters). Adult dragons eat wild pigs, deer, young buffalo, and on the island of Rinca, long-tailed macaque monkeys. Komodo dragons have been known to attack humans but this is rare. Dragons bite their prey and inject a venom that causes the bitten animal to bleed. The bite becomes infected, either from germs in the dragon's mouth or from the environment that the animal travels through until it dies. The dragon follows the dying prey and eats it when it catches the weakened animal or when the animal is dead.

To catch a monkey, the Komodo dragon lies in wait, camouflaged against the ground. When the monkey is close, the dragon gives the monkey a mighty wack with its strong tail.

Life Cycle of Komodo Dragons

Komodo dragons live alone, and only look for each other for breeding. Breeding season is from April to July. Females are ready to mate when they are 4 - 5 years old. Males are ready when they are 7 years old.

Part of a Komodo dragon's nest (kidcyber image)

Part of a Komodo dragon's nest (kidcyber image)

A couple of months after mating, a female Komodo dragon is ready to lay her eggs. She digs 4 or 5 holes about a metre deep and a metre wide. To confuse predators, which might try to eat her eggs, she lays eggs in only one of the holes. (Females lay between 15 and 30 eggs, which take 8 -9 months to hatch but usually only about half -of the eggs hatch) She then fills in all the holes and goes away. Adult dragons do not look after their eggs or their young.

When they hatch, the young dragons (they're about 34 centimetres long when they hatch) climb into trees and live there for 4 -5 years. They feed on insects, small lizards and snakes. As they grow they hunt and eat rats, mice and snakes. They are about 1 metre long when they come out of the trees to live on the ground. For their protection, young Komodo dragons dig sleeping burrows, about a metre long, into the side of a hill.

Conservation status

The Komodo dragon is endangered, and it is thought that there are less than 3000 left in the wild. The destruction of their habitat is the main cause of their reduced numbers.

Watch a video about a conservation program for the Komodo Dragon