Komodo dragons – the largest lizard species in the world – are at risk of extinction due to rising sea levels and shrinking habitats. The alarming news comes after the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the most renowned and influential conservation organizations globally, updated its Red List of threatened species.
The reptile’s status has been changed from “vulnerable” to “endangered”, just one step closer to extinction.
Usually found in Asia, carnivorous reptiles can grow up to three meters long and weigh 150 kgs. Also known as Komodo Monitors, they have a keen sense of smell. Similar to snakes, they can detect flesh from several kilometers away using their serrated tongues. Among their main diets are wild hogs, buffalo, fruit bats, deer, and even horses. Their venomous saliva attacks their prey. As a result of the venom, the blood pressure drops and clots, leaving the victim in shock. Despite their fearsome looks, they are notoriously shy and avoid human interaction.
The ICUN verdict came after research from late last year evaluated the effects of global warming on the giant lizards and called for urgest conservation to avoid extinction. In the study, Komodo dragons – endemic to a few Indonesian islands – suffer from a shrinking and fragmented habitat due to rising sea levels. In the next 45 years, global warming will affect over 30 percent of its habitat in Indonesia.
In south-eastern Indonesia on the island of Flores, the population of Komodo dragons declined by over 40 percent between 1970 and 2000.
According to estimates by the IUCN, only 1380 adult Komodo Dragons are left in the wild, from over 5000 in the early 90s.
If species drop below a critical number, they could be “extinct in the wild” and may only survive in captivity.