The Komodo Dragon; Amazing Animals; Exclusive Online Issues; by Claudio Ciofi; 6 Page(s)
A deer nimbly picks its way down a path meandering through tall savanna grasses. It is an adult male of its species, Cervus timorensis, weighing some 90 kilograms (about 200 pounds). Also known as a Rusa deer, the animal knows this route well; many deer use it frequently as they move about in search of food. This Rusa's home is the Indonesian island of Komodo, a small link in a chain of islands separating the Flores Sea from the Indian Ocean. Most wildlife find survival a struggle, but for the deer on Komodo, and on a few of the nearby islands, nature is indeed quite red in tooth and claw. This deer is about to encounter a dragon.
The Komodo dragon, as befits any creature evoking a mythological beast, has many names. It is also the Komodo monitor, being a member of the monitor lizard family, Varanidae, which today has but one genus, Varanus. Residents of the island of Komodo may call it the ora. Among some on Komodo and the islands of Rinca and Flores, it is buaja darat (land crocodile), a name that is descriptive but inaccurate; monitors are not crocodilians. Others call it biawak raksasa (giant monitor), which is quite correct; it ranks as the largest of the monitor lizards, a necessary logical consequence of its standing as the biggest lizard of any kind now living on the earth. (A monitor of New Guinea, Varanus salvadorii, also known as the Papua monitor, may be longer than the lengthiest Komodo dragons. The former's lithe body and lengthy tail, however, leave it short of the thickset, powerful dragon in any reasonable assessment of size.) Within the scientific community, the dragon is Varanus komodoensis. And most everyone also calls it simply the Komodo.