Can You Have a Komodo Dragon as a Pet?

Monitor lizards are popular pets for reptile lovers. They are fiercely territorial and spend their time eating, sleeping, and patrolling their turf. There are several species of monitor lizards, including the Komodo Dragon. Native to several of the Indonesian islands, Komodo dragons are the largest lizards still in existence. Their large size, fierce claws and prehistoric appearance make them quite an intriguing lizard. This leads many reptile lovers to wonder, can you have a Komodo dragon as a pet?

Can You Have a Komodo Dragon as a Pet?

Let’s face it, it would be cool to walk a Komodo Dragon down the street. With one of these lizards patrolling your yard, pest animals and burglars wouldn’t stand a chance! However there is one issue, Komodo dragons are an endangered and protected species.

So no, it is illegal to own a Komodo Dragon as a pet. It’s also illegal to remove one of these lizards from their native habitat without express government approval. Having one will result in stiff penalties that often include lengthy jail time.

Why are Komodo Dragons Illegal to Own?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) has listed the Komodo dragon as a vulnerable species. In 1980 Komodo National Park in Indonesia was founded to set aside protected land for these lizards. Many thing have lead to the decline in Komodo dragons including habitat loss, climate change, tourism, loss of their food source to poachers and poaching of the dragons themselves. It was estimated in 2015 that only 3,000 were left in the wild.  It is now illegal to own, threaten, or hunt the species.

Safety is another reason it’s illegal to own a Komodo dragon. Their large size and powerful bite make them difficult for anyone to control.

Do Komodo Dragons Attack Humans?

Komodo dragon attacks on humans are considered to be rare, but they do happen. Attacks on humans have been recorded both in the wild and in captivity. Humans are not looked at as a food source, so the attacks are not due to the dragons hunting people. Attacks generally only occur when the dragons feel threatened. threatened. When kept in captivity, such as a zoo or rescue, they can become tame rather quickly and can even learn to recognize their common caretakers. However even docile captive dragons can become suddenly aggressive, especially if someone unfamiliar enters their territory.

How Dangerous Are Komodo Dragons

A full-grown male dragon can get up to 10-feet in length, and weighs around 300 lbs. The lizards have powerful jaws that can snap bone, along with razor-sharp teeth designed for cutting and tearing muscle and skin. Combined with the toxin in their saliva, Komodo dragons are deadly to their prey.

Are Komodo Dragons Venomous?

For many years, it was believed that a Komodo dragon bite infected the prey with bacteria. But it is now known that rather than bacteria, they actually inject venom when they bite. Their teeth are serrated, and they use these to grip and tear flesh when they bite, leaving a bloody wound.  The venom contains toxins that prevent the blood from clotting normally, so the prey continues to bleed.  The venom also lowers blood pressure, causing even more bleeding. This eventually causes exhaustion and too much blood loss. Komodo dragons can smell blood up to 5.9 miles away. Even if their prey escapes and gets a few miles ahead, the lizard will still catch up to it.

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More About Komodo Dragons

Komodo dragons are only found on Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. You can find the large lizards almost anywhere on the tropical islands, but they prefer the forested areas. Adult dragons can reach 10-feet in length and weigh up to 300lbs.

Females are asexual, meaning they do not need a male to reproduce. However, this is a problem since asexual reproduction will only result in giving birth to males. Female dragons do prefer mating, and it’s healthier for the population since females will birth both sexes by mating with males.

In the spring, females will leave a scent in their feces for a male to follow. When the male catches up, he licks and scratches her. If she reciprocates, the two Komodo dragons mate. Females can lay up to 30 eggs that hatch after eight months.

What Do Komodo Dragons Eat in the Wild?

The large monitor lizards are carnivores. They are also the largest predators in their habitat and aren’t picky when it comes to prey. Almost anything is fair game. It includes pigs, deer, smaller Komodo dragons, along with water buffalo, and even carrion.

Dragons are lazy hunters, even though they will follow bleeding prey for miles. They prefer to hide in bushes and long grass and wait for prey to wander by. They can spring quickly, using their powerful jaws and sharp teeth to catch and hold their meal.

Where Do Komodo Dragons Live in the World?

Komodo dragons are only found on five islands in southeastern Indonesia. Known as the Less Sunda Island, they comprise Rinca, Komodo, Gili Montag, Gili Dasami, and Flores. The first four islands are part of the Komodo National Park, while Flores recognizes the lizard as an endangered and protected species.

Are Komodo Dragons Endangered?

The largest lizards in the world are listed as “vulnerable”. Komodo dragons face several threats, the most pressing are human encroachment, poaching, and climate change. Poachers often come into the reserve searching for deer, water buffalo, and other prey necessary for the lizard’s survival.

Warmer temperatures and logging are reducing the tropical forests where the dragons like to live. While four of the islands the lizards call home are part of the country’s National Park, Flores isn’t.

Largest Lizards that You Can Legally Own

You can’t own a Komodo dragon, but this doesn’t mean you can’t have other monitor species as exotic pets. Other monitor species grow to an impressive size and are legal to own. There are advantages to owning a large lizard. They’re intelligent and their larger size makes them easier to handle without harming the reptile.

Water Monitor

Water monitors demand plenty of care, but they do grow between 3 – 6 feet from nose to tail. They require large enclosures, often the size of a room. They need space to roam or “monitor” their territory. You also need to supply the lizard with a steady water source.

Their coloring can be black or dark brown with yellow dots from head to tail. They have sharp teeth and a strong tail that the lizard will whip around. Care is needed when handling, The average life span in captivity is around 10 years, but the hardy lizards can live for 15 or even 20 years with optimal care.

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Juvenile monitors will eat insects, but by adulthood, they are strictly carnivores. Mice, rats, chicken, and duck organ meats, along with fish are what your adult water monitor need for optimal health.

Savannah Monitor

Another large lizard is the Savannah monitor that reaches between 3 – 5 feet. It’s a hardy lizard, originally from Africa, that thrives in hot, dry conditions. Keeping one as a pet means you’ll need plenty of room for its enclosure. You’ll also need to have a water source nearby for hydration.

Savannah monitors do have small, razor-sharp teeth, and aren’t afraid to bite their handlers. Their bite isn’t poisonous, but it is painful and will draw blood. Like all lizards, they can be docile but are also temperamental.

Adults and juveniles will both eat insects like crickets, earthworms, and roaches. Their diet also needs to be supplement with meat. Mice and small rats once a week will keep the monitor healthy. You want to watch out for overfeeding. Savannah monitors are opportunistic eaters. They’ll continue to eat even when not hungry.

Black-Throated Monitor

Anyone that wants a large monitor, similar in size to a juvenile Komodo dragon should consider the Black Throat Monitor. Reaching lengths up to 7 feet, you’ll also need a lot of space to properly house the reptile.

The lizard’s native habitat is in Tanzania. Along with a blue or pink tongue, they have a brownish-grey coloring with either yellow or white markings. They prefer a dry habitat, though still need water for drinking.

One of the reasons you need a large enclosure, other than the reptile’s size, is both males and females roam 5 – 7 miles in search of food. They will eat carrion when it’s in front of them, but they prefer to find prey as their monitoring their territory.

Nile Monitor

Reaching up to 6 feet when full-grown, Nile monitors are a large pet. Like other monitors, they’re intelligent and need room to roam. You’ll need an enclosure at least twice the animal’s length. It will also need a large water bowl in its cage.

The species is native to the Sub-Saharan region along the Nile River. There are also monitors in West African, but these are starting to be recognized as a separate species, the West Nile Monitor. Both are legal to keep as pets. They also have similar habitat needs.

It has a greyish-brown body, similar to the black throat monitor, with light-colored spots. Hatchlings primarily exist on insects, for the first couple of years. By the time, the lizards are three, they are eating small prey like mice and rats. Obesity is a problem with all monitor species. Juveniles need feeding once a day, starting with insects, and moving up to mice. Adults only need feeding once a week to keep their weight down.

Conclusion

If you want to own the world’s largest lizard, it’s illegal. It’s also extremely dangerous to have a Komodo dragon as a pet. Along with strong jaws and teeth sharp enough to cut through a body, the lizards are also venomous.

You can still own a large monitor lizard, and some like the Nile monitor reach 6-feet and more in size. As far as we could see it is legal to own many types of monitors in the United States, but as always check with your local state and county exotic animal laws. Before you commit to a large monitor lizard, consider the care and expense. These are not cheap animals to own and you don’t want to give your pet less than optimal care.

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