Skip to comments.Close Encounters With a Komodo
Posted on 02/13/2014 8:57:47 AM PST by nickcarraway
Heading to the remote Indonesian island of Rinca to photograph a modern-day dinosaur was all Stefano Unterthiners idea. A zoologist as well as a photographer, he says: I have always been fascinated by working with the Komodo dragon. [The Komodo] is full of mystery. That, coupled with the fact that the giant lizard is a threatened species, its habitat limited to a few islands in the Indonesian archipelago, I thought it would be a perfect story for National Geographic.
For close to seven weeks, Unterthiner photographed these giant reptilesmales can grow up to 9.9 feet and weigh over 200 poundsin the picturesque, sparsely inhabited wilderness of Komodo National Park. When you see the dragon at close range in that landscape, with the little hills and the high grass, forest in the background, no humans, he says, you have the feeling of jumping back in time.
Even if they look a bit uglya bit like a monsterat a certain point they seem pretty beautiful because they are completely unusual, he says.
Although captivated by the sight of the dragon moving through its prehistoric environment, Unterthiner was nervous. He has been around his share of wild animals, but what he found disconcerting about the Komodo was not knowing what they were thinking. They dont look at you, and then they look at you for a while and you dont understand what they are doing, Unterthiner says. They are reptiles after all, not unlike snakes. Slow-moving and sleepy, as Unterthiner describes them, the dragons can be unpredictably fast when triggered by sudden movements, vibrations, or the scent of bloodand they bite.
They really shocked me when they were feeding. Whenever they smell blood they are incredibly fast and aggressive. I photographed two dragons eating a goat they completely gutted [it] in less than three minutes. The bones, the horns, they ate everything.
After a week or so of tagging along with researchers studying the animals, Unterthiner slowly began to feel more comfortable. His confidence bolstered by the company of a seasoned ranger named Pà Matieus, he dared to get closer and closer, until at times he was working within of one to three feet of them. Unless the shot was worth it though, either beautiful light or engaging behavior, he wouldnt take the risk of being so close, but rather would shoot from a distance.
Near the end of the assignment, once hed gotten his shots and was feeling relaxed, he took a risk without even realizing it. Photographing a dragon from a tree, he decided he wanted to get it from another angle. When I jumped down [from the tree], my wife saw him lunge towards me and in the exact moment I took a step back, he bit at the air where I just was. Then I just moved a few steps away and the dragon stopped. Its rare they pursue the prey. Usually they hunt by quick and short attacks, mostly playing with surprise.
After that, Unterthiner put his camera down for a few minutes, and then started shooting again.
I have heard that a bite from these creatures can easily be fatal as their mouths are filled with bacteria which are toxic to humans.
Valerie Jarrett looks like Kramer in that episode where he spent too much time in the tanning bed, then doused himself in butter.
I had a Komodo. It was real comfortable to wear. Kind of like a bathrobe.
Didn’t some starlet’s husband get bitten on the toe by a komodo some time back? They were being given a personal zoo tour, or something, and apparently were expecting professional courtesy from the lizard. I mean the reptile. You know, the cold-blooded one. Oh...never mind.
No, it wasn’t a starlet, it was Sharon Stone. She bought it for him as a gift. (Probably a very Columbo way of killing him)
Yeah, I looked it up. It was Sharon Stone’s then husband Phil Bronstein, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. Fortunately, the lizard survived. I mean, well, both of them survived.
I don’t know what you are talking about. Around here we sit on them. And when they get stopped up we have to use a plunger.
When I lived in the Philippines, they had monitor lizards there that were smaller than Komodo dragons, but still pretty big. I remember seeing one that looked 8-10 feet long, and have heard they could get bigger.
My friend’s father ran the JEST school at Cubi Point, and he showed his son how to make traps, which...he showed me how to make. I thought it was quite ingenious...everything was done with a machete, bamboo and parachute cord.
We used a large piece of bamboo with one end open and a small rectangular slot in the top. You have to position the bamboo on the ground next to a small, flexible sapling.
You get some sticks and drive them at a really sharp angle towards the midline on both sides of the big piece of bamboo, then use parachute cord to secure the bamboo to the sticks, and hence, to the ground. (this was the hardest part to do)
You then cut a little tab of bamboo with a lip on the flat edge, and what it does is block the closed end of the bamboo aft of the little slot you cut in it.
Take a piece of the parachute cord, make a loose slipnot big enough to just fit around the bamboo open end, and attach the other end to the small sapling which you bend over. You take another piece of the parachute cord, tie it to the little tab of bamboo that has the lip on it, then tie the other end to the length of the cord attached to the tree.
You bend the tree down holding the tab, and insert it in the slot in the big piece of bamboo with the lip or shelf of the tab facing the open end of the bamboo tube after putting some enticing thing that you think the lizards will eat (we used some raw hamburger and some of Mom’s lettuce, because we didn’t know what they ate...:) then seated the little tab in the bamboo slot and placed the slipknot around the neck of the bamboo tube with the hamburger and lettuce in it.
That was the hardest part. We couldn’t get the right tension on the sapling without having it rip the bamboo off of the ground. Eventually after a bunch of tries, we used longer sharpened sticks at angles which held it to the ground under tension from the sapling.
As the lizard poked its head into the open end of the bamboo to get the food, it would knock the little tab out of the way, the tab would dislodge through the slot, and the sapling straightening out will bring the slipknot tight around the lizard’s neck.
We waited patiently for hours, and no lizard came. So we left it and went home. We went out there the next morning, and lo and behold, there was a small monitor lizard about four feet long dangling there motionless by its neck!
I was pretty sure it was dead, but when we got closer, it started whipping around like mad! This kid was fearless and he went up and grabbed the lizard just in front of the hind legs and tied a rope around the abdomen. He said his dad told him he could direct the lizard by having one person grab the slipknot end and someone else grab the rope around the abdomen, but in practice it was too freaky. It was like trying to do that with an ornery cat. We ended up cutting it loose.
He caught another one he ended up keeping it in a garbage can for a few days...