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Rinca, dragon island

Life on land

"On the hill next to the one we are standing on I can see a familiar shape under a tree, distance about one kilometre, it casts a shadow, this is the world’s biggest lizard".

Peter Hylands, Andrea Hylands

October 31, 2022

Rinca is a beautiful island. It is the sort of place you would expect to see Professor Challenger popping out at you from the pages of the Strand Magazine. Happily this is not a place of fiction, unlike Conan Doyle’s lost world, Rinca remains tantalisingly real.  The video above was filmed on both Komodo Island and Rinca Island. The young Komodo Dragons were filmed on Rinca.

Rinca Island

As we gently manoeuvre our small boat past the mangroves towards the jetty, I can see Hariadi waiting for us on the small path that leads to the rangers settlement of Loh Buaya.

Rinca has open grassland on its sometimes steep slopes, with the folds between each hill the home to patches of open forest, the coastal stretches are typically Mangroves.

So the small pathways here meander through areas of shade and then head upwards into the light and the heat of the tropical sun, and back down again into some cooler crevice of shady vegetation.

The Komodo Dragons

On the hill next to the one we are standing on, I can see a familiar shape under a tree, distance about one kilometre, it casts a shadow. This is the world’s biggest lizard, the Komodo Dragon Varanus komodoensis.

Each Komodo is precious, very precious, its remaining habitats are the relatively small islands of Rinca, Komodo, Gili Motang and Nusa Kode with significant loss of habitat and population on the larger Flores Island in the last few decades. I suspect we would be struggling to count more than 5,000 animals in its total range.

Wise words from Indonesia

"Sustainable development needs ecological guidelines, but this demands that people, all people, should absorb and apply the constraints set by the ecological system in which they live". The ecology of Indonesia series - Periplus Editions (HK) Ltd

Young Komodo Dragons

Population decline is down to the usual culprits, habitat destruction in its range (destruction is outside of the Komodo National Park and reserves at the time of writing), problems include encroachment by humans, changes in cultural practice, introduced species destroying nesting sites and attacking young Komodo Dragons and climate change, increasingly a threat to island locked populations. Declining numbers also means a decline in genetic variation for the species.

We are here to visit a nesting site and look for young Komodo Dragons who are far more agile than mature adults.

Young Komodo Dragons are good climbers so they can be found up in the branches of trees where they are safe from larger lizards.

From our narrow path we watch a small Komodo Dragon cautiously working its way around two very large Komodo Dragons sunning themselves just in front of us. Safely by, the young lizard climbs the trunk of a tree then up across its canopy, the tips of the branches bending low under its weight and in doing so bringing the young lizard close to the roof of a house. Our young lizard lowers itself onto the roof and darts in through an opening. Rats and geckos exit the roof space. A meal of rat is what the young Komodo is after. Reptiles are of course important in their habitat and ecosystems.