by Kacey Barton
Stalking along the sands of a small Indonesian island called Komodo, is an apex predator that looks like a relic from the Mesozoic Era. Growing up to 10 feet long and weighing up to 300 pounds, Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world. To accompany its already intimidating physique, the Komodo dragon uses its forked tongue to find prey, then delivers a painful, venomous bite with its serrated teeth; the venom prevents the victim's blood from clotting and sends them into shock. Death is almost always imminent for the reptile's prey, often occurring from blood loss and infection days after being bitten.
Despite the terrifying nature of the Komodo dragon's hunting behavior, these larger than life lizards are a popular tourist attraction in Komodo National Park. This is both a blessing and a curse for the reptiles; on one hand, they are protected and respected by inhabitants of the Park, free to wander around both inhabited and uninhabited areas. On the other hand, tourists have been known to disrupt the lizards get bitten for their annoyances, leading to some negative public opinion.
The World Wildlife Foundation approximates the population of Komodo dragons to be around 6,000, though this figure varies. They are also classified in IUCN standards as Vulnerable, as they are losing habitat and prey due to human encroachment. As villages grow larger, these lizards will find themselves getting closer to humans, and despite the reverence most natives have for the Komodo dragon, the fate of countless other animals might also befall this powerful reptile.