This article is written by Matthew Allard, Aljazeera TV’s cameraman who visited Komodo National Park a few weeks ago. The article was published in Aljazeera.net’s blog.
For millions of years, the Komodo dragon has lived in the Lesser Sunda islands in Indonesia, but they were only discovered by humans in the last 100 years.
For millions of years, the Komodo dragon has lived in the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia. They were only discovered by humans in the last 100 years.
The Komodo dragon is on the endangered species list and although their numbers have increased in recent years, they still only number around 4,000.
They can weigh up to 150kg and grow to more than three metres in length. And Komodos eat almost anything – deer, pigs, smaller dragons, even large water buffalo and humans.
They lay in wait and surprise theeir pray. With shark-like serrated teeth, they bite there prey, but that’s not what kills them. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, its prey usually dies of blood poisoning.
I recently got the chance, along with Al Jazeera’s Indonesia correspondent Step Vaessen, to go and film these incredible animals, which are probably our closest link to the dinosaurs. To get there you need to fly from Bali to the island of Flores, and from there it is about a two-hour boat ride to Komodo Island.
The islands they inhabit are surrounded by crystal-clear water and provide some of the best diving spots in Asia. The landscape of the terrain ranges from lush green grass to African savannah.
It is a harsh and unforgiving place, but somehow these majestic creatures have managed to survive. The dearth of egg-laying females, poaching, human encroachment, and natural disasters have, though, driven the species onto the endangered species list.
In recent times, there has been an increase in cases of Komodos attacking humans.
With a decrease in food, they have moved into closer contact with people. In the only small fishing village on the island, a young boy was recently attacked and killed. But as the Komodo is now a protected species, it is against the law for people to attack them.
Coming into contact with a Komodo for the first time, you feel like you have stepped onto the set of Jurassic Park. They are an intimidating creature and are on the top of the food chain in the habitat they live in. Park rangers carry long wooden sticks that have a Y-shaped fork on the end. While I never felt threatened filming the dragons, I always had multiple rangers standing close by.
It is hard not to remain extremely cautious when shooting them. They look slow but can run in short bursts of up to 30kph. One dragon in particular seemed to take great interest in the camera and, as I was filming, it came within a few feet. Our ranger was noticeably nervous. To watch this incredible creature in its own environment was a real pleasure. It is the closest I will ever get to seeing a real-life dinosaur.
Indonesia wants to increase tourism to these islands but it is a fine balance between protecting the creatures and providing security and peace of mind for visitors. Let’s hope that these incredible creatures remain on our planet and don’t end up extinct, like so many other animals have.