Their bite makes you bleed uncontrollably. They can follow you for kilometers waiting for exhaustion to kick in. And once you can’t escape, they’ll start eating you while you’re still alive. Sounds like a horror story, but this monster is very real. These carnivorous reptiles are the heaviest lizards in the world. Their powerful sense of smell can detect blood up to 4 km (2.5 mi) away. They have sharp claws, and serrated, shark-like teeth to eviscerate their prey. And their bite contains a toxin that won’t allow blood to coagulate. These dragons don’t need to breathe fire to be extremely deadly. Today we’ll see their worst attacks, the people who survived them, and others who weren’t so lucky. You’ll never believe number 1. Why shouldn’t you use white shoes around Komodo dragons? How could picking fruit on Komodo Dragon Island kill you? And why is going to the bathroom behind the bushes a terrible idea?
The chances of encountering these colossal beasts are slim if you don’t live on one of the five eastern Indonesian islands where they’re normally found. But our first dragon traveled over 13,000 km (8,000 mi) to attack its victim.
4. Big Bite in L.A.
In 2001, Phil Bronstein went on a private visit to a Komodo dragon’s pen at the Los Angeles Zoo. It was a present from his then-wife, actress Sharon Stone. Bronstein took off his white shoes, which the keeper believed could remind the animal of a favorite food, the white rat. But when a sneakerless Phil entered the cage to get his photo taken, the dragon lunged for his foot. Bronstein pinned the Komodo’s head with his other foot while the beast tried to maul him. He then managed to pry open the reptile’s jaw, throw it aside and crawl out of the cage. Phil made it out alive but had to undergo surgery to rebuild his foot. The key to saving his life was quick thinking and proximity to a hospital.
3. Tragedy on the Island
In 2007, an eight-year-old boy was playing with his friends near their village on Komodo Island. He rushed behind a bush to urinate, but a hiding Komodo dragon attacked him. His friends ran to get some help. The boy’s uncle came throwing rocks at his nephew’s attacker until it released his body, but it was too late. The wounds were lethal, and the youngster died from massive blood loss. The attack happened during the dry season, and the water holes had dried up. Since a dragon will find most of its prey around these holes, this one must’ve been particularly hungry. On Komodo Island, you have to be extra careful around bushes and shrubs. A camouflaged dragon could be waiting to lunge.
2. The Apple Picker
In 2009, 31-year-old Muhamad Anwar climbed a tree to get some apples in a Komodo Island orchard. Anwar accidentally fell to the ground, where two dragons were waiting for him. Neighbors heard screaming and ran to find him badly injured. Muhamad suffered severe wounds to his legs and neck, causing him to bleed profusely. He was transported to a clinic on nearby Flores Island but was declared dead on arrival. A single venom-laced bite could kill you. But Muhamad’s multiple bites meant he had no time to get to a hospital.
1. Ranger in Trouble
Do you think these hungry beasts only go for unsuspecting passersby? I wouldn’t be so sure. In 2009, a 46-year-old park ranger named Maen was working at his desk in a hut in Komodo National Park when a Komodo attacked his ankles. He tried to pry open its mouth, but the dragon bit into his hand. Maen thought he wouldn’t survive. He had seen a lot after spending half his life around Komodos, but nothing like this. Luckily for him, his friends heard his screams and got him to safety. He survived the attack, but required 55 stitches on his hand. The first rule of living on Komodo Island is never to let your guard down, even if you’re an experienced park ranger.
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- 12 Surprising Facts About Komodo Dragons. Heimbuch, J. (2022). Treehugger.
- Dragon Tales: Zookeeper’s Komodo Bite Raises Questions. Peterson, E. (2015). Live Science.
- Varanus komodoensis Komodo Dragon. Lawwell, L. (2022). Animal Diversity Web.
- Komodo dragons maul man to death. Bates, S. (2009). The Guardian.