What Eats People, Part 11: Komodo Dragons


On the island of Komodo, a man has been wounded by the bite of a dragon. Worse can happen: The Komodo dragon is the only lizard unequivocally proved to prey on people. In the book version of Deadly Kingdom, I discuss the recently discovered dragon venom that seems to tranquilize prey into submission quickly. We now know four families of lizards possess venom. Until recently, only the beaded lizards, including the dangerous Gila monster, were known to be venomous. Most of these newly-discovered venoms are probably harmless to people. But the monitor family—of which the dragon is the largest member—have long been known to cause profuse bleeding. The dragon, of course, has the size (a beefy ten feet) and teeth to dispatch an unwary human by mechanical injury.

Video: Komodo dragon vs. deer:

6 comments:

  1. From the photo above, this is the sort of zoo I would think best explored from a car! - Amanda L.

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  2. Or from another country, with a telescope or something. (Actually I'd love to go. Wearing thick boots, of course.)

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  3. Gordon, I just completed "dismantling" Deadly Kingdom, little more than a few months after dealing with The Red Hourglass. The subject matter of Kingdom and the sometimes humorous but always kinetic prose of Hourglass ensured that I would be reading that second book.
    I found that Walter Auffenberg's study, The Behavior Ecology of the Komodo Monitor to address its topic in extreme detail, including coverage of humans and other critters. Auffenberg uses the aboriginal name "ora" for the lizards. I own but haven't read the more recent book James B. Murphy edited - Komodo Dragons: Biology and Conservation, which acknowledges Auffenberg's research. W. Douglas Burden's chronicle of his late twenties expedition to the East Indies for the purpose of capturing the semi-legendary oras is worth a read...and purportedly enthralled Meriam Cooper, the future creator of King Kong. Pity that the even larger Dragon relative, the megalania, is extinct in Australian, though Ralph E. Molnar's Dragons in the Dust dredges up claims that folks in Oz still report giant lizard sightings.

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  4. Thanks for the kind words, Jeff. I've heard that story about Cooper. . .

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  5. One of your Deadly Kingdom accounts concerned the Nile monitors which were nibbling on their owner. That occurred amidst a spate of stateside pet reptile mishap stories, most involving serpents, including one memorable piece involving first responders breaking into a house or apartment and discovering the very fruiting body of the owner and at least one of several venomous snakes slithering around. I believe the animals were rounded up with no further victims and the official conclusion was that the bitten owner tried to self medicate. There was the more recent story a few seasons ago of a woman bit by a cobra stateside, probably on the east coast, around fall or winter - I deduced from the scant story details that either she or probably a male relation owned the snake and after the mishap, she needed an alibi and blamed the branch she claimed she picked up in a parking lot, saying it turned out to be a cobra! When the truth came out, I was incorrect in one detail - she was the snake's unlikely owner. She survived to face charges. As for the monitors-I sought out several updates about it. There was at least one cat in the dwelling and it apparently sought high ground in order to avoid the largest of the varanids. I don't doubt that the cat made use of what... food ...was available, either.
    Several years ago, some folks out west earned legal trouble because a very ill pgymy hippo was discovered on their property. It was rescued and is hopefully all healed up now. Some idiots see the word "pgymy" and think they'll wind up with a tiny version of the real thing but these hippos can grow to hundreds of pounds.
    Gordon, you should be writing horror, SF and adventure, given your formidable scribing skills, maybe trying your hand at an alternate ecology novel such as what Warren Fahy's Fragment.

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  6. I hadn't read about the cat! I recall a story by Ambrose Bierce about what happens when you leave a cat with a dead body.
    There's probably another book to be written just on incompetent owners of exotic pets.
    I do enjoy a good horror story. That's food for thought.

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