Can Komodo Dragons be Pets? 8 Facts and Debunked Myths

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Imagine wandering in the Savanna or in the tropical Indonesian Islands when you come face to face with the majestic modern-day dinosaurs- the Komodo Dragons; the picturesque cacao-colored animals made your heart melt or may have thrilled you, which made you think, can Komodo Dragons be pets?

We’ll stop you right here by answering this simply and in all brevity: No, Komodo Dragons can not be pets either in the US or any other country since they are a vulnerable species protected by the international and the national organization of Indonesia. Setting apart the legal angle of petting a Komodo, they are very aggressive and dangerous animals, which possibly makes them one of the worst pets for your ‘home’.

If you are wondering that the Komodos will make as good a pet as the dogs and cats that you so adore, you are terribly wrong. Komodos are huge and hypercarnivores, so unless you want them dangling on your leg, chewing it with multiple lacerations of their knife-like teeth creating a pathway for the highly toxic venom to get into your blood, you can’t really pet a Komodo Dragon. 

Apart from being hypercarnivores, these endangered species will suffer poorly if you try to pet them because no matter what, they will never be able to adapt to the change in their meal or the climate and the habitat- so even if you were allowed to pet a Komodo Dragon by the law, they would make the worst option as pets.

Why are Komodo Dragons illegal to pet?

Komodo Dragons (Varanus komodoensis) can not be trapped, transferred, or kept on private land since they were an endangered species a few years back that have successfully made it to the list of ‘vulnerable’ species. Komodos are illegal to pet since they are rare and can now only be found on the Indonesian Islands.

The Komodos that freely roamed the lands of other parts of the world such as Australia and parts of Asia in India and Sri Lanka have all gone extinct or migrated from there, and the species is now completely restricted and concentrated to the five Indonesian Islands that are a part of Komodo conservation national park. 

Komodos are illegal to pet and are protected by the national law and the international organizations under CITES I protected endangered species. Since only a fraction of Komodos have survived through the years, they are now a protected species due to hunting, killing, and illegal trafficking, and you sadly can’t pet them. 

If you think you can take better care of them if you pet them, you can’t. These carnivores are massive, and petting them means feeding them with the body of a dead animal, which is quite impossible.

Unless you are running an accredited zoo, you will never really be able to pet these rare creatures.

 

Why else do Komodo Dragons not make good pets?

Well, now that you know privately owning a Komodo is illegal, let’s understand the other factors that still don’t make Komodos an ideal pet.

Komodo dragon

Komodo Dragons are venomous

Yes, Komodos are poisonous, and one steak of their bite can dangerously lower the blood pressure and stop blood clotting, making the prey bleed to death. The prey goes into shock from the Komodo’s venom; it isn’t able to struggle, and the movements are almost completely restricted, which ultimately kills it. The venom is similar to Gila monster’s poison, and the effect on the body is sudden and devastating.

Earlier it was believed that Komodos killed their prey with the bite (with bacteria that covered their teeth) that was considered to be as powerful as the crocodiles, but recent studies reveal the bite is comparatively less lethal than the venom.

The dirty secret is not in the teeth, but the lower jaw, which has a venom gland that isn’t a trivial structure but a big bulge that gives the Komodo the venomous capability it has. The mystery of the Komodo’s killing method was revealed upon magnetic resonance imaging scans that prove Komodos are venomous, and that is their greatest arsenal for killing their prey.

Komodos bite hard

If you seriously thought you could pet a Komodo, then here is a big blow to that insanity- Komodos bite real hard, and it’s going to be excruciatingly painful. Delivering one of the most fatal bites in the reptilian world (not as lethal as a crocodile, as the rumor goes), Komodos have serrated knife-like 60 sharp teeth, measuring about 1 inch each, that are capable of tearing animals apart with the bite force of about 39 newtons.

Komodo Dragons hide and wait for the prey to ambush them by charging forwards with their jaws open. Leaving the boars and deer to bleed to death, they track these injured animals down with their extreme olfactory senses to relish the meal once dead.

These beasts keep biting and mauling the spot with their teeth until it opens a path for the venom to seep in and finally run its course on the prey.

Komodo Dragons are Dangerous and Aggressive

These dragons are ‘dragons’ for a reason, and dragons are dangerous- Komodos are too formidable creatures, they may not be as potentially dangerous as lions and tigers upon human encounter, but they will definitely love a snack out of you if they are hungry. So think twice before wanting to pet a komodo. 

Komodos are aggressive reptiles that get excited when they smell blood; Steve Irwin, an environmentalist, and TV personality proved that Komodos come at you with their mouth wide open if you are bleeding from an injury on his visit to Indonesia. Komodo Dragons are capable of running faster than humans when it comes to short distances.

There may not have been many reports of Komodos killing humans, but 5 is still a number. If Komodos can easily take down a 40 kilo Rusa deer with their powerful and muscular body and razor-sharp teeth, how hard is it going to be killing a human?

The venom is what makes them the most dangerous reptiles in Indonesia or the whole of the earth. They may not be very prominent at killing humans, but they can injure you and send you into a mild to moderate shock while tearing open a spot on the flesh and gladly watch you bleed to death like crazy before devouring you.

Komodos are Big and Bulky

If you have been watching the television, thinking, ‘that isn’t so big,’ you are most definitely wrong. Komodo dragons aren’t just huge; they are muscular too, which contributes to their heavyweight. They are the world’s largest reptiles for a reason!

The most massive lizards by weight, Komodo Dragons are covered with Osteoderms (bony plates) and come armed with a strong tail, powerful claws, and a strong tail. To talk of how much Komodo Dragons weigh, it can be anywhere near 50-70 kilograms.

Other than being heavy, they are tall too. The adult male Komodos reach an average length of 3 meters (10 feet). Yes, they are by far taller than humans. The females, although smaller, still reach ‘merely’ 1.8 meters, which is 6 feet. With the average height of 5 feet and 7.5 inches of human males, we are still nowhere even close in comparison to the towering Komodos.

Can Komodo Dragons be trained?

If you’re thinking that maybe if you train a komodo, it will start living with you happily, and maybe sometimes more than often, you will tickle its belly, and it shall roll around with happiness- NO! You can’t train a Komodo.

It generally all depends on what ‘training’ a Komodo means for you. Do you want to tame it down so that it doesn’t come at you hungrily, trying to eat you alive, or do you want to pet it in a way that it will respond and come to you when you call him and play frisbee with you? The first is quite possible.

The Komodos in the zoo are tamed to not attack the zookeepers or bite them. However, there have been several instances where the Komodos have severely injured their caretakers.

If you are considering the second option where you want to pet a Komodo like you would any other animal, most generally a cat or a dog, then you’re very very wrong. You can’t train Komodos in that manner- they are true sociopaths and having an intelligence higher than the average lizard, you’d think maybe it’s not going to be hard training them (just like the tigers in the circuses), well they may be intelligent but they aren’t intelligent enough to let you offset other characteristics that you want in them.

Thus, training them will probably be worth nothing because they are dangerous and aggressive while being too formidable to try attacking their owners. You may better pet a cute and snuggly dog because Komodos will never make an ideal pet.

Where do Komodo Dragons live?

In the general sense, Komodos have a dual-purpose home. They make burrows to live in, which at night keep them warm and in the day keeps them cool from the humid and hot weather.

Komodos are rare reptiles that are mostly (can say only) found in Indonesia (South Asia) on the five islands, namely- the Lesser Sunda Islands of Komodos (also called Komodo Island), Rinca Island, Flores Island, Gili Dasami, and Gili Motang Island. These islands are all a part of the Komodo National Park, where the Komodos roam freely. Komodo Island, out of the five, is the most populated island. 

Besides living in burrows on these islands, Komodos are also found to live in the trees, caves, and mangrove swamps near the sea. The Komodos thrive and live in tropical places, and what better location can they live in other than these Indonesian Islands that are tropical and hot, mainly because they are situated close to the equator.

There have been sightings of Komodos in Europe but the chances of surviving there are very low due to the cold weather conditions. 

What do Komodo Dragons eat?

As you know, they are carnivores; Komodo Dragons eat what they can hunt based on their size and what’s naturally found in the regions they live.

The carrion is the favorite food of the Komodo Dragons, which is the decaying flesh of animals, and thus Komodo Dragons are scavengers too. Other than carrion, Komodos hunt and eat living animals too, such as invertebrates like the other reptiles, birds, and their eggs. Komodos’s densest meal consists of small mammals such as monkeys, goats, wild boars, pigs, and deer.

They seldom eat horses and water buffalo too. If they luckily find livestock near their habitat, they feast on sheep and cattle other than snakes from their habitat. Although rare, Komodos have been reported to attack and sometimes kill humans for food, too. 

Komodos are cannibalistic, which means they often eat smaller Komodos they encounter and their own children. They also prey on sick or older dragons that are weak. Shockingly, about 10% of their diet consists of the other Komodo Dragons.

The Younger Komodo Dragons primarily feed on lizards and small rodents, insects, and little birds, and upon attaining the age of 5 years, they move onto bigger prey.

With their flexible skull, an expandable stomach, and loose jaws (much like most other reptiles), Komodos swallow their meal if it’s the right size. The undigested contents in their stomach can poison them since, a lot of times, the prey they eat are killed by their venom; thus, they have a fast digestive system. These tertiary predators can not just scavenge for carcasses but eat their own kind too; this is proof that Komodos are true carnivores.

Why are Komodos an endangered species?

We’ll correct you here- Komodos were an ‘endangered’ species that have successfully crawled their way to the list of ‘vulnerable’ species. There are only 3000-5000 Komodo Dragons remaining in Indonesia.

The researchers and wildlife experts believe to be a fraction of the Komodo’s population when analyzing their demography for the last 50 years. Now, this isn’t very rejoiceful news, either since they are still a threatened species who have seen a sharp decline in their population due to several factors. 

They are cannibalistic, which means the larger and bolder Komodo Dragons often end up eating their eggs. This greatly puts them at the risk of diminishing their existence.

The Komodos are a threatened species primarily due to illegal hunting by humans to make certain products and loss of habitat due to exploitation led by increasing human settlement in their territories. The Komodo Dragons are still sought as awards for big-game hunters, despite the government’s countless efforts. They are killed for their skin and feet to make novelties, while some of them were earlier caught and sold to private collectors, illegally. 

Volcanic activity has greatly disrupted Komodo Dragons’ living patterns; infact, the Indonesian Islands have many active volcanoes that pose a constant threat to Komodo Dragon’s existence. One of the prime diets of Komodo Dragons is deer, but the continuous poaching of deer by humans has led to the scarcity of food for Komodo Dragons leading to their starvation and finally death.

A large part of Komodo’s conservation sites are now a part of ecotourism programs- the particularly popularizing ecotourism activities that allow thousands of people to mingle and co-exist with these mighty creatures have changed their behavioral patterns and also affected their habitat.

Mounting on the preexisting climate issues is derived that Komodos might be pushed to go extinct in the next few decades due to the drastic changes in the earth’s rapidly changing atmospheric conditions. Already living in restricted habitats, the Komodos may have to face even worse conditions with the radical changes that are starting to impact their lives with the increasing global warming.

Can Komodo Dragons be Pets

How can you help save the Komodo Dragons?

The Komodo Dragons are protected under the laws laid down by the Indonesian government, and the illegal possession, killing, or unlawful trading of the Komodos can result in up to five years of prison sentence and up to $7,000 fine. If you ever as much as slightly detect any illegal trading or poaching of Komods, reach out to the Indonesian wildlife authority or the respective Indonesian Island’s authority where you encountered the activity.

The Padar breed is the healthiest and the boldest Komodo in the Indonesian Islands, which sadly is on the verge of extinction since it’s tapped and transferred for research. You can fund the wildlife reserves with whatever amount you can to help them actively stop this transfer while they expand their sources and vigilance. To save Komodo Dragons, do not buy any novelties that ‘boast’ the products are made from their skin and feet. Avoid buying timber or wood from its habitats and the Komodo Islands. 

As we already mentioned above, ecotourism has greatly exploited the Komodo’s habitat. The mass promotion of Komodos has attracted a deluge of visitors and illegal wildlife traffickers that steal and sell these precious creatures in the black market.

However, ecotourism has become necessary to support and manage these conservation sites; thus, you can fund these Komodo reserves as an incentive that will hopefully slow down the ecotourism activities. Other than this, you can raise awareness and avoid any actions that may harm the Komodo or its habitat.

Komodos are a crucial part of the ecosystem and the apex predators that balance the food chain while also clearing away the recently perished animals by scavenging on them. It is not solely the responsibility of the government and the international organizations to protect them from perishing from the face of the earth, but local communities, tourists, and all of us must contribute to save Komodo dragons from extinction since they are the wealth that belongs to Mother Earth.

 

Myths about Komodo Dragons

Myth- Komodo Dragons can breathe fire.

Debunked- Okay, so Komodos may have ‘dragons’ in their name, but they can’t breathe fire, smiting their enemies and transforming them into charred husks. This is a rather funny myth mainly because of the Komodo’s huge size and the suffix ‘dragon’ in their name. The Komodos have no such capabilities that allow them to breathe fire as an attacking or a defense mechanism. 

Myth- Komodo Dragons kill prey with bacteria and virulent substances in their teeth.

Debunked- For years, it was believed that the Komdos killed their prey with the bacteria that covered their teeth that seeped into the bloodstream. However, the new study proves that the dirty secret isn’t in the teeth that have bacteria and other virulent substances but the venom produced in their lower jaws in a venom gland. This venom is transferred into the prey’s body through the multiple lacerations of the Komodo Dragon’s teeth, ultimately killing the prey.

Myth- Komodo Dragons are friendly.

Debunked- No, Komodos aren’t friendly animals. They are sociopaths and are extremely formidable to humans. They can attack humans, and there have been five death reports caused by Komodos in the past few decades. Although the death number is less, the attack and injury reports are numerous and uncountable. So, Komodo Dragons in no way are friendly to humans.

Myth- Komodo Dragons can eat humans.

Debunked- The Komodos may be able to injure and kill humans with their powerful jaws and a strong neck, but they aren’t able to eat humans in the sense of swallowing humans as a whole. Humans may be smaller in size than Komodos, but they are still larger than the average prey the Komodos eat; thus, Komodos can’t eat humans.

Myth- Komodo Dragons have a great bite force.

Debunked- The Komodos have a powerful jaw, but their bite force isn’t as high as the rumors go. In comparison to their body and weight, their bite is pretty weak and may be equivalent to a dog’s bite with the force of about 32 newtons.

 

FAQs

Are Komodo Dragons able to regrow their tails?

Komodos can’t regrow their tails like geckos and other lizards that self regenerate several body parts. However, the theory still needs a lot of research; for now, all we know is Komodos aren’t able to regrow their tails and limbs, possibly because they have no predators and remain at the apex of the food chain, which translates to no necessity of fancy escape tricks for them.

The Komodo’s tail is pretty strong and hard, which means it will take much more strength to pull off a new tail, which they possibly aren’t biologically programmed to do. Also, for lizards, the tail is the tool for survival; the same isn’t the Komodos case.

Are Komodos cannibalistic?

Yes, Komodos are Cannibalistic reptiles that eat their own kind. The larger and the bolder Komodos eat the weaker, ill, or older Komodos that have lost their ability to fight. The Komodos also eat their children when they are starving, which is why the younger Komodos spend their lives hidden and mostly on trees to avoid becoming the prey of matured and stronger Komodos.

The Komodo Dragon’s diet consists of about 10% of the other Komodos, which makes them highly cannibalistic creatures.

Why are Komodos only found in Indonesia?

These varanids were earlier found in Indonesia and many other parts of the world, such as Java, Timor, Queensland, and India. However, what caused them to congregate in Indonesia is still a mystery. However, researchers believe they are now only found in Indonesia since there has been so much exploitation of their habitat and increment in the human settlement in conjunction with the changing climates that the Indonesian Islands best suited them, which made the prehistoric ancestors migrate and thrive in Indonesia.

How fast do Komodos run?

Komodos can run at a speed of 20 kmph, which is pretty fast when considered for short distances in comparison to humans.

Can Komodo Dragons reproduce asexually?

Yes, female Komodos can reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis, and a male isn’t usually required for reproduction. These behemoths, thus, are the largest vertebrates that can self-reproduce.

Can Komodo Dragons climb up trees and walls?

The baby Komodos are light, and with the sharp claws, they get an excellent grip to climb trees. However, as they get heavier, they lose the ability to climb trees. This is one survival mechanism used by the younger Komodos to prevent being eaten by the older Komodos.

However, Komodos can’t climb walls either as infants or as adults.

Can Komodos be eaten?

No, Komodos can’t be eaten both from the geographic and cultural perspectives. They are highly protected by the Indonesian Government, and harming them, let alone killing and eating their meat, is severely punishable by a prison sentence of 5 years and a hefty fine of about $7000. 

You can legally eat their look-alikes, another smaller brother, the monitor lizards (Varanus sp.). They may look like Komodos, but they are much smaller in size and a delicacy in Indonesia.

Can Komodo Dragons swim?

Aside from the prowess in running, which is a great defense and attack mechanism in Komodos, Komodo Dragons are talented swimmers. They can swim up to 300 meters and move back and forth between the different islands of Indonesia where they currently live.

 

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