May 25, 2009

Komodo Dragon Attacks Cause Panic, Fear In Indonesia

The notorious Komodo dragon has sharp teeth and its venom kills within hours of a bite. However, Indonesian villagers living with the world's biggest lizard were not concerned, until the dragons started hurting people.

Two people were killed in 2007, and others were terribly hurt after being bitten maliciously.

Main, a 46-year-old park ranger, was in his hut at Komodo National Park when a komodo bit his ankles under his desk. After the ranger tried to pull his ankle from the dragon's jaws, it clamped down on his hand.

"I thought I wouldn't survive... I've spent half my life working with Komodo and have never seen anything like it," said Main, who received 55 stitches in his arm. "Luckily, my friends heard my screams and got me to hospital in time."

Komodos can grow to 10 feet long and 150 pounds. The remaining 2,500 left in the wild are at the Komodo National Park, on the Komodo and Rinca Islands.

Heru Rudiharto, a biologist and reptile expert, says that villagers insist the dragons are hungry from loss of food, although park officials disagree. The giant lizards have always been a threat to humans, said Rudiharto. Regardless of their appearance of gentleness, they are swift, powerful and deadly.

After finding their prey, the Komodo uses a strong bite that releases poisonous venom, says a new study available in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers of the article insist that the idea that death from blood poisoning from toxic bacteria in the dragon's mouth is untrue.

"The long, jaded teeth are the primary weapons. They deliver these deep, deep wounds," stated Bryan Fry of the University of Melbourne. "But the venom keeps it bleeding and further lowers the blood pressure, thus bringing the animal closer to unconsciousness."

Four deaths have occurred in the last 35 years. However, park officials state that this is not frightening considering the 4,000 people who live in the area.

"Any time there's an attack, it gets a lot of attention," Rudiharto said. "But that's just because this lizard is exotic, archaic, and can't be found anywhere but here."

The government wants the park to be on a list of the Seven Wonders of Nature. The park's hills and savannahs house the orange-footed scrub fowl, wild boar and wild horses, and the coral reefs and bays house dozens of whales, dolphins and sea turtles.

The Komodo dragon attacks are not helpful for this attempt.

"How could the dragons get so aggressive?" said Hajj Amin, one of several village elders. "They never used to attack us when we walked alone in the forest, or attack our children. We're all really worried about this."

Villagers have requested a 6-foot-high concrete wall to be constructed around their villages, but it was rejected. Residents have instead made a barrier from trees and branches, but insist that it's too easy for the dragons to get through.

"We're so afraid now," stated a local 11-year-old, noting how students panicked when a dragon was sighted in a field behind their school. "We thought it was going to get into our classroom. Eventually we were able to chase it up a hill by throwing rocks and yelling 'Hoohh Hoohh."'

Two months ago fisherman Muhamad Anwar died after stepping on a lizard when walking to a field.

The park rangers are uncomfortable in a way they never were before.

They used to play with the lizards, with their tails, hugging and jogging them, said Muhamad Saleh, employed by the park since 1987.

"Not any more," Saleh insists. "I want to live for another thousand of years."


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