A project of Wildlife Survival Fund: Investing in endangered species before it’s too late.



Geographic Location

Lesser Sunda islands, Indonesia

Focal Species

Komodo dragon

IUCN Red List Status of Focal Species


About the Project

The Komodo dragon is endemic to five islands in southeastern Indonesia. The aim of this project is to collect demographic information on extant Komodo dragon populations to address conservation and management priorities. Somatic growth patterns represent a major component of organismal fitness and may vary among sexes and populations due to genetic and environmental processes leading to profound differences in life-history and demography. The ongoing project considers the ontogenic, sex-specific and spatial dynamics of somatic growth patterns in 10 populations of the Komodo dragon. In previous years, we measured the growth of more than 1,200 individual Komodo dragons in a capture-mark-recapture study at 10 sites on four islands; this year we will continue collecting this demographic data.  Growth trajectories differed significantly with size and between sexes, indicating different energy allocation tactics and overall costs associated with reproduction. This leads to disparities in maximum body sizes and longevity. Sex-specific trade-offs in growth underpin key differences in Komodo dragon life-history including evidence for high costs of reproduction in females. Further, inverse density-dependent growth may have profound effects on individual and population level processes that influence the demography of this species. Significant variation in mean growth rates was evident among sites and islands. The low density populations with low growth rates in the two small islands of Nusa Kode and Gili Motang are possibly of concern. This could be an indication of populations in decline and calls for continued monitoring of small island populations to assess possible need of demographic reinforcement.



Komodo Dragons at Woodland Park Zoo

The Dragons of Komodo exhibit, next to the Adaptations Building, features a full-grown, adult male Komodo dragon and two juvenile males. Here you can learn about their lives as island predators and the challenges their populations face.

To learn more:

Read the Komodo dragon fact sheet