The Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is among the world’s largest reptiles. It can reach 3 meters or more in length and weigh over 70 kg. Its preferred prey is deer, but it also eats pig, water buffalo, horses, long-tailed macaques, dogs, goats, sea turtle and bird eggs, birds, and other small animals. Young dragons eat insects as well. It prefers to eat carrion, and is cannibalistic (eats members of its own species). The saliva of the Komodo dragon is highly septic, and animals generally die within a week from blood poisoning following a bite. Komodo dragons use olfactory cues to detect their prey, and usually wait in ambush or attack sleeping animals.
If they can not kill the prey immediately, they will follow the bitten prey and wait for it to weaken and die. They can eat up to 80% of their body weight at a time and feed opportunistically. It takes about a week to digest a large meal. Conservative estimates of metabolic rates indicate that juvenile animals need to ingest approximately 55 g per day, and that adults need approximately 610 g per day (B. Green, D. King, M. Braysher, A. Saim, 1991, Comp. Biochem.Physiol. in Komodo PHVA 1995). There is no distinct mating season (copulation has been observed in most months of the year) for the Komodo dragon, however they do appear to avoid the wet season.
A female lays approximately 15 – 30 eggs (average 18.7) in nests made of sand or dry leaves once per year, the majority of eggs are laid in August – September. On occasion, females lay their eggs in scrubfowl nests. The gestation period is approximately 8 ½ months, and the nest is guarded during the first few months only. After hatching in March-April, the young are independent, despite their small size (average 80.3 g and 30.4 cm long), and spend a large portion of their time in trees to avoid predation by their elders, feral dogs, and pigs. This strategy also allows young Komodo dragons access to foods such as birds eggs, young birds, insects, lizards, etc., without having to compete with adults.