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What is a Komodo dragon?

Komodo dragons, or Komodo monitors, are actually lizards. They just happen not to spend much time in the water and are much larger than other lizards. They grow as large as six-feet long and can be fairly substantial in weight. They aren't generally very fast creatures, but their hunting strategies are based on power and size. Compared with lions and other carnivores, Komodos can eat larger bites of meat with each bite and waste no time in swallowing or chewing. The lizards tend to prey on animals like monkeys, goats, wild boars, and rodents.

Komodos have four legs and prefer tropical climates. The reason there aren't many of them around is because young Komodos often end up as victims of prey to larger animals. However, if they can live past their fifth birthday, there's a good chance they'll be fine.

Mating generally happens in the summer and males regularly get into fights over the females. When they fight, the Komodos lean back on the hefty tails for support as they grab each other's forelegs and attempt to wrestle the other to the ground. The most powerful get to breed.

Why are Komodo dragons mysterious?

Komodo dragons were unknown to the Americas until 1910. That was the year Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbroek, a Dutch colonist, heard about the "land crocodile." People in the western world then talked about the animal for years as if it were an ancient creature that may not really exist, or may even be God-like. Van Hensbroek took it upon himself to find the dragon, and he did just that. He eventually killed a Komodo that was about six-feet long. Van Hensbroek and a zoo director named Peter Ouwens compared their dragons and then determined that the Komodos were actually a form of monitor lizard. It wasn't until 1912 when Ouwens wrote a scientific paper about the Komodo.

The Dutch colonial government believed the Komodo to be magnificent and rare, so they immediately issued plans to protect the creature. Explorers then traveled to the island of Komodo, where this rare dragon was believed to originate. There were as few as 3,500 Komodos in existence, and were listed on the endangered species list.

Much more is known about Komodos today, and much of the mystery is gone. While scientists are still learning more about these creatures, they aren't nearly as mysterious as they once were. However, the Komodo dragon's reputation for being a special and magnificent creature for the most part still exists.