National Geographic : 1968 Dec
KOUACHKUMaU N... Tearing apart sun-ripened goat meat with saw-edged teeth, Komodos gorge on bait hung from a tree limb. Though the dragons commonly feed on carrion, they have been known to kill live animals as large as goats. Crouched in a blind only 14 feet from the lizards, the author focuses on the feast. Mr. Kern, a Floridian who has filmed quetzals in Costa Rica, proboscis monkeys in Borneo, and the varied wildlife of the Everglades, jour 874 neyed 15,000 miles to study and photograph the dragons. from a vanished age. Early investigators on Komodo and the neighboring islands aimed more at capturing specimens for zoos than at detailed observations. Nat uralist W. Douglas Burden, however, presented his findings in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and there first used the popular term "dragon" in describing the species.* Burden reasoned that the dragons owe their great size as well as their sur vival to the absence of large competing carnivores. He noted that the huge liz ards fed almost exclusively on carrion the carcasses of goats, wild pigs, deer, and water buffalo. Later observations have shown that Komodo monitors occasionally attack live animals. Very young dragons are fast and ex cellent tree climbers, like other lizards, and they undoubtedly feed omnivorous ly on geckos, snakes, and birds' eggs, as well as on carrion. Some adult dragons, though slow and clumsy, still hunt when the opportunity arises. A Komodo is lander showed me a large scar on the hind leg of a deer he had killed and said, "Buaja darat-landcrocodile," the dragon's Indonesian name.