Emerging from its burrow, a Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) starts out the day with a soak in the sun.

Hudo, a male in Dragons! at the Cincinnati Zoo

Then it sets off on a hunt for food, perhaps a deer or wild pig. With its belly full, the lizard takes a break during the midday heat before the search for supper begins. The Komodo dragon is the top predator on the Indonesian islands it inhabits.

When it comes to a dragon’s menu, anything’s game as long as it’s made of meat, dead or alive. Tasting the air with its forked tongue, the dragon picks up the scent of prey and heads in that direction. Hiding along a trail, the dragon sits and waits. As prey wanders near, the dragon ambushes and seizes it with 60 sharp, serrated teeth. Venom from ducts between the dragon’s teeth seeps into the bite wounds.If the prey gets away, the dragon simply follows its scent trail until the venom finishes up the job.In addition to its important ecological role as a predator, the Komodo dragon also scavenges on any carcasses it comes upon. Despite the dragon’s dominance atop the food chain, it faces competition from people who hunt the same animals it needs to survive.


  • Where to see them: Indonesian Islands
  • Length: Up to 10 ft
  • Weight: More than 175 lbs (up to 350 lbs after a big meal)
  • Lifespan: More than 50 yrs
  • Habitat: Grasslands and rainforest
  • Diet: Wild pigs, buffalo, deer, other animals, and carrion
  • Risk Status: Species at Risk (IUCN-Vulnerable)
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