Steve lives! (part 2)

“When I visited the ‘Steve Irwin Zoo’, now ‘Australia Zoo’, I was confronted by the tigers. My reaction was to think what have they to do with preserving etc. Australian mammals. A short while later I rethought it and realised he had a much more inclusive attitude of trying to save any species from around the globe than I.”

(Comment by a friend on Steve Irwin)

Australia Zoo doesn’t have just reptiles, nor limit itself to Australian animals. There’s the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the largest living land lizard, fossils of which have been found in Australia

Komodo dragon

and the rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta)…

Rhinoceros iguanas

Rhinoceros iguana - what a great face!

and the reticulated python (Python reticulatus) …

Reticulated python

These are all threatened species.

Komodo dragons originally come from the island of Komodo to our north. I’d wanted to go there and see them years ago, but at that stage travel through Indonesia was pretty difficult, especially to isolated islands, so I gave up. I did see Borobodur, though, via local bus transport with local people, rice and chickens, we passengers unloading ourselves when the bus couldn’t get up the slopes and getting back on for the downhill runs. Now the dragons have more of a profile and I imagine it’s easier to get there and see them.

A.J. MacKinnon tells, in his book of his travels from New Zealand to Scotland, “The Well at the World’s End”, an amusing story of  sailing to Komodo, being marooned there by accident, and having to spend a night in the sea while dragons roamed the beaches. It was not funny at the time:

“Admittedly I had spent most of that time wondering if Komodo dragons could swim, a worry only occasionally interrupted by the thought of night-feeding sharks. Nevertheless, I was happy to stay exactly where I was, trying to keep my feet on the bottom and my knapsack on my head as I stood chest-deep in the tropic waters of the dark and starry sea. Although the night was moonless, I could faintly see by starlight the beach whence I had fled. I watched in horror as, sure enough, giant shapes, long, low shapes, shuffled to and fro across the sand. It was too dark to see properly, of course, but in my mind’s eye I watched them as they paused, sniffed the air and wondered  if a night dip might yield a prey less knobbly than a goat.”

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4 Responses to Steve lives! (part 2)

  1. Such an interesting quote–are Komodos dangerous to humans? I can only assume so, or why would the poor fellow stand all night in the ocean–even while worrying about shark bite…

    • Joy Window says:

      Yes, they have eaten humans. And just the bite would turn a wound septic, as the mouth is full of bacteria from the rotting flesh they eat (of sheep, pigs, goats, monkeys, birds, other komodos – anything they can ambush) – just like the domestic moggie (septic bite, I mean, rather than eating goats!). It’s one of the reasons birds bitten by cats will often not survive.
      I once listened to a RadioLab podcast that reported that a certain parasite infects the brains of rats and mice so that they lose their fear of cats, get eaten by the cats, and the parasite then lodges in the cat as the next part of its life cycle. Cats poop out the parasite or its cysts (can’t remember which) and around the cycle goes again. I’ve often wondered whether such a parasite makes people love their pet cats despite all the damage they do to wildlife when let roam. A great book about parasites and their weirdness is “Parasite Rex”, by Carl Zimmer.

    • Joy Window says:

      Komodos can swim quite well, apparently. Good job he didn’t know that!

  2. P.S. Fabulous python photo!

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