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29 December 2022 Surviving Dragons: Ethnographic Reports of Komodo Monitors (Varanus komodoensis) in Northeastern Flores
Gregory Forth
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Besides their namesake island and several immediately neighboring small islands, Komodo monitors (Varanus komodoensis)—better known as Komodo dragons—also occur on the larger island of Flores to the east. Apart from the extreme western part of Flores, the giant lizards occur along the island's northern coast; but how far eastward they extend remains a question. Early in the twentieth century, reports by local people described dragons as present in the northeast, while in 1985, officials of the Indonesian department of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation reported catching specimens of V. komodoensis in the vicinity of Cape Kotabaru in northeastern Flores. Camera trapping conducted between 2014 and 2019 by field zoologists failed to produce evidence of dragons in this region. Yet, during recent ethnographic research, the present author recorded reports of local people encountering specimens in Kotabaru. In view of locally recognized differences between Komodo dragons and the related, though much smaller, water monitor (Varanus salvator), the present study discusses local knowledge of Komodo dragons among the Lio people of northeastern Flores as a prelude to reviewing local sighting reports, some from as recently as 2016 and 2017. With regard to mostly anthropogenic factors that would account for recent decline in dragon numbers throughout Flores Island, as well as features of the species that render it resilient to these, the paper concludes that a small number of dragons remain in the Kotabaru region, so that recent sighting reports are likely valid.

Gregory Forth "Surviving Dragons: Ethnographic Reports of Komodo Monitors (Varanus komodoensis) in Northeastern Flores," Journal of Ethnobiology 42(4), 417-431, (29 December 2022).
Published: 29 December 2022
ethnographic sighting reports
Flores Island (Indonesia)
Komodo dragons
survival of rare species
the Lio people
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