Komodo dragons are now in danger and "on their way to extinction"

The Komodo dragon has earned its status as a reptilian icon. The carnivorous lizard can grow up to 10 feet long and is equipped with a ...

The Komodo dragon has earned its status as a reptilian icon.

The carnivorous lizard can grow up to 10 feet long and is equipped with a forked tongue, jagged teeth, armored scales, and poisonous saliva. Dragons can detect flesh from miles away while hunting an impressive array of prey including deer, wild boars, horses, water buffaloes – and each other. Females are even known to eat their own offspring.

“He has this scary reputation,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor, a biologist at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. “It’s like watching your story books come to life.”

But now the biggest living lizard in the world has moved one more step towards annihilation in nature.

The Komodo dragons, previously considered a “vulnerable” species, were reclassified last weekend as “endangered” by the conservation organization.

“This is a real change in status, a deterioration,” said Mr. Hilton-Taylor, head of the international group’s Red List unit, which assesses the conservation risk of 138,000 species and the count. “He’s headed for extinction.

The new label is intended to encourage international decision-makers and conservation groups to strengthen and extend the protections of the giant lizard in its natural habitats. This may be especially necessary among a population of dragons that live in areas that are unprotected and who are more vulnerable to activities such as illegal hunting and habitat clearing.

“It sounds louder,” said Andrew Terry, director of conservation at the Zoological Society of London. “It increases the urgency to act.”

Komodo dragons are originally from Indonesia and are found in Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the island of the same name and a number of other islands. A more poorly understood population of the species also lives on Flores, a larger neighboring island.

While experts consider the national park’s Komodo dragon population to be stable and well protected, the species still faces increasing obstacles to its long-term survival. Komodo dragons are particularly vulnerable to environmental changes as they inhabit a limited belt of land between island coasts and rugged forested hills.

“They’re pretty tight, in terms of where they can live,” said Gerardo Garcia, a conservation biologist at Chester Zoo in England who has spent nearly a decade working with dragon protection efforts. of Komodo in Indonesia.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature warns that suitable habitat for the Komodo dragon is expected to decline by at least 30 percent over the next 45 years. Factors behind this loss of habitat include rising temperatures and sea levels associated with climate change. But apart from the dragon park refuge, urbanization and agricultural clearing are also factors. In Flores, locals also compete with dragons for deer and wild boar, and view carnivorous lizards as a threat to livestock, goats, and other farm animals.

“These animals are being persecuted,” said Dr Garcia. Despite their global charisma, he said, “they do not have a magic shield.”

Their ranks have already fallen sharply. About 25 years ago, somewhere 5,000 to 8,000 Komodo dragons roamed the Earth. Today, IUCN estimates that only 1,380 adult Komodo dragons and 2,000 other juveniles remain in the wild. “The real concern is what is going to happen in the future,” Mr. Hilton-Taylor said.

Other reptilian species – many of which are also isolated on islands – are vulnerable to the same threats. “It is a flagship for the state of reptiles in the world,” said Dr Terry.

If Komodo dragons pass beyond critically endangered status, they could become what is known as “extinct in the wild” and only survive in captivity. “I think that would be a terrible indictment,” he said. “No one who works in a zoo is happy to see a species only exist in a zoo. “

Dr Garcia compared the recent reclassification to entering an emergency room. “If we don’t react quickly, we will have very few animals,” he said. “It means you are going to intensive care.”

At this point, the only hope for the Komodo dragons would be precarious: a captive breeding program and attempts to transplant into limited and fragmented wild habitats. But experts say it hasn’t happened yet.

“This is the last chance,” said Dr Garcia. “We still have a little time.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Komodo dragons are now in danger and "on their way to extinction"
Komodo dragons are now in danger and "on their way to extinction"
Newsrust - US Top News
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