The Komodo Dragon Island in Indonesia
Many people must have heard this island before: Komodo Dragon Island. This is one of many Indonesia’s islands. What makes it special is that this island is the original habitat of Komodo animals, the heaviest lizards alive, and by heaviest means they weigh about 70 kilograms and can grow up to 3 meters.
Thus, this island used to be declared as one of the Seven Wonders by UNESCO. On 11 November 2011, New Seven Wonders announced the temporary winners, and the National Park Komodo was one of one of the winners along with, the Amazon Forest, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls.
As well as Jeju Island, the Puerto Princesa River, and Table Mountain. Komodo National Park received the most votes. This shows how extraordinary the site is.
People might think that Komodo dragon Island is only inhabited by Komodo dragons due to its name, while actually it is the other way round. Humans do actually live on this island that has now become part of the Komodo National Park.
The population in this area is approximately 4,000 inhabitants. Most of them earn living by becoming fishermen. They live in a village called Kampung Komodo which is located not far from the bay of Loh Liang dock, the pier used as a tourist entrance to the island of Komodo.
The locals have their own way to call the island of Komodo. They call it Orah Island, which is derived from orah, the local name for komodo dragons. The locals used to live in scattered ways all over the island until the island was designated as part of the Komodo National Park on 6 March 1980.
This island is part of the islands of Nusa Tenggara, just in the center of the country. Komodo dragon Island is east of Sumbawa Island, which is separated by the Sape Strait. Administratively, this island belongs to Komodo District, West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara Province, Indonesia. Komodo Island is the westernmost tip of East Nusa Tenggara Province, bordering the province of West Nusa Tenggara.
In the island also lays the area of Komodo National Park which is managed by the Central Government. Here, on this island, Komodo dragons live and breed well. Until August 2009, on this island there are about 1300 dragons. Combined with other islands, such as Rinca Island and and Gili Motang, their total number reaches around 2500 numbers of komodo dragons.
There are also about 100 komodo dragons in the Wae Wuul Nature Reserve on the mainland of Flores Island but the site is not included as the part of Komodo National Park area.
Origin and History
In 1910 the Dutch named an island on the south side of East Nusa Tenggara province with the nickname of Komodo Island.
Just for the record, around that time, Indonesia was colonized the Dutch. The story begins with the troops of Lieutenant Steyn van Hens Broek’s who apparently encountered with one of the huge lizards while on duty. He tried to make a groundbreaking report representing the Dutch troops to prove about the existence of a large animal resembling a dragon on the island. The lieutenant then killed a Komodo dragon and brought the documentation to the Museum and Botanical Garden in Bogor to be examined.
That was the first time of Komodo Island being documented. Pity is that one of the nearly extinct reptiles had to be killed during the process. However, this might due to unawareness of the fact during the time.
Expedition of Komodo Dragon Island
Its name then expanded after 1912, when Pieter Antonie Ouwens, director of the Zoological Museum in Buitenzorg, a city now known as Bogor, published a paper on komodo dragons after receiving photographs and skins of these reptiles. Later on, the Komodo dragons were the crucial factor for the expedition to Komodo Island by W. Douglas Burden in 1926.
This expedition was the one that inspired the infamous King Kong film of 1933, after the members of the expedition returned with twelve preserved specimens and two live komodo dragons. W. Douglas Burden was the first person to give the name “Komodo dragons” to these animals. Three of the specimens of the Komodo dragons that he got were reformed into animal displays. Those are still kept in the American Museum of Natural History until now.
The next thing happened was that the number of these animals in nature started to decrease. The Dutch, being aware of the fact, then prohibited the hunting of komodo dragons and limited the number of komodo dragons taken for scientific research.
The Komodo Expedition was suspended during World War II, and it was not continued until the 1950s and ’60s when researches were conducted on komodo dragons’ eating habit, reproduction and body temperature.
Around that time, another expedition was organized to study komodo dragons for a long term. This important task was to be undertaken by the Auffenberg family, who then lived for 11 months on the island of Komodo in 1969. During that time, Walter Auffenberg and his assistant managed to capture and study more than 50 Komodo dragons.
The results of this expedition were very influential on the increased awareness about creating reservations for these animals. Some following studies then provided clearer explanations of the nature of the Komodo dragons, making it possible for biologists like Claudio Ciofi to continue a more in-depth study about the matter.
The Existence of Komodo Dragon
Komodo dragons belong to the species of giant lizards. They are literally giants as they can grow up to 2-3 meters on average, and weigh around 70 kilograms. The largest specimen was known to weigh 166 kilograms and was 3.13 meter long. These endemic reptiles are also known for their venomous saliva.
Due to the deadly bacteria exist in it, even a prey survives from the actual attack will eventually dies within a few days. Regardless, people in the area live pretty close to these predators, despite their dangerous nature.
Komodo dragons live in the forest by hunting other animals such as deer, goat or wild boar. Despite being doubted as a true story for the modern minds, the giant lizards coexist with humans to this day thanks to the folklore. The folklore might sound irrational scientifically.
However, for Indonesians who mostly still believe in and respect for myths and their ancestors, this is practically the most effective way to protect the nature. We will find like stories told among the people from other ethnics telling legends of the nature, preventing people to cause damage to it.
- Prey Hunter
People and komodo dragons should live side by side, according to the folklore, but it cannot be mistakenly interpreted as komodo dragons being harmless. We are not supposed to get too close to them let alone pet them. Predators are predators, and by peaceful coexistence might mean to be not destroying the endemic animals.
They are indeed fierce and may turn to brutal predators if needed, but not necessarily endanger human beings that they need to be destroyed for safety. Komodo Island residents seem to understand this concept perfectly that they are still willing to live side by side with dragons since decades ago despite many cases of Komodo dragons attacking humans repeatedly occurs.
These seemingly slow animals are never actually relaxed. Well, these animals look so tame most of the time. They can be as silent as like a statue. However, you will not meet any tamed Komodo dragons on this island. Even if they keep quiet, it does not mean they cannot attack you all of a sudden. In spite of being gigantic on shape, they can run to speed of 20 kilometers per hour, and that is fast.
- Breeding Seasons
They will be even fiercer when laying eggs. Almost every animal becomes fiercer and dangerous when laying eggs, and so do female komodo dragons. They have nests and will possessively protect and take care of their eggs. They need to be as fierce as possible because many other predators are ready to steal their eggs, ranging from a male dragon to a naughty monkey.
Also, usually komodo dragons like to wander around the kitchen area of the general manager of the national park. They like to take the food from the chefs. They can be practically everywhere around the national park that might surprise people nearby.
If you make a sudden movement during the encounter due to the shock, you can be a meal of these komodo dragons, and like mentioned before, they are very fast. Therefore, guards are employed throughout the island to become sort of tamers. They are called rangers.
- Rangers (Guard)
If you have seen The Lord of The Rings films, you might be familiar with the term ranger. Rangers, who befriended with the elves, were conveyed as men guarding a wood. In this case, a ranger in Komodo Island is the guard of the forest and komodo national park itself. Rangers need to keep the park area safe. They also serve as a tour guide for the tourists who come to visit.
The rangers will usually be on standby if the track passes the nest of komodo dragons, since the female dragons can feel the presence of other creatures from a distance and are ready to fight if it is considered harmful to the eggs. Rangers understand well the behavior of komodo dragons and how to move around the komodo dragons or if they need to in a close range with dragons.
Although know well the behavior of the animals and how to act around them, being rangers are still considered as a dangerous job. Being a ranger in Komodo National Park is not exactly easy. Their main duty is to be the safeguards and protect the national park area, especially from thieves.
In addition to having to deal with thieves or intruders sustainability of national parks, officers also have to deal with dragons that can meet at any time. For some rangers in Komodo National Park, being bitten by a dragon is not a new thing anymore.
Approximately there are 60 rangers duty in Komodo National Park. They stand by in 11 posts on Rinca Island and Komodo Island. To maintain the safety of the national park, rangers patrol around the park, making sure every thing is alright. Since there are about 5,400 dragons on Rinca Island and Komodo Island, it is very likely when patrolling, ranger will meet dragons.
As mentioned, this island is not only inhabited by dragons. In addition to dragons, this island also keeps the exotic plants used as medicine and clothing coloring materials. This tree, called nitak tree or sterculia oblongata, is believed to be useful as medicine and the seeds are tasty. They taste like peas.
There are 277 species of animals that are a mix of animals from Asia and Australia, which consists of 32 species of mammals, 128 species of birds, and 37 species of reptiles. Together with the Komodo dragons, at least 25 species of terrestrial animals and birds are included as protected animals.
This is indeed such a unique island where the largest lizard alive live together with human beings. Not only unique with its unique Komodo dragons, it is also a habitat of mixed animals of Asia and Australia. With its also beautiful nature, the Komodo Dragon Island indeed one of the most unique places in the world.