Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Elderly Indonesian woman fights off Komodo dragon

The 83-year-old woman was sitting outside her home on Rinca when she was attacked by the 6-foot-long lizard, which she fought off.

RUTENG, Indonesia — An 83-year-old Indonesian woman survived an attack by a Komodo dragon on Tuesday, fighting the enormous monitor lizard off after it bit her outside of her home on the island of Rinca.

“I kicked the Komodo on one [of] its front legs with all my strength, it was only one kick but it made the Komodo let go of my hand, then I screamed for help,” Haisahtold AFP from her bed in Labuan Bajo, a port city on the Indonesian island of Flores, where she received medical treatment.

Read more from GlobalPost: Komodo dragon office attack leaves two hospitalized

The Rinca island Komodo dragons are reportedly more aggressive than their Komodo Island counterparts, and three guides on the island have already been bitten by the huge reptiles since the year began — including two men who had been sitting at their desks when a Komodo quietly slipped inside their office.

Article continues after advertisement

One guide on Rinca told GlobalPost that he had been bitten in the leg in May, as he was leading two Australian tourists on the usual hiking tour of the island reserve.

“There was a lot of pain,” he said of the decidedly unpleasant experience. “Enough for me.”

The guide had been taken to the Labuan Bajo hospital and had the wound thoroughly cleaned out with antiseptic, preventing a deadly infection from forming.

He soon returned to the island, armed with only a forked stick for protection against the Komodos, which can reach about 9 feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds — the planet’s largest surviving species of lizard.

Fatalities remain relatively rare, although they do occur, largely among Komodo-area locals, who must coexist with the reptile. A fruit picker was killed by the dragons in 2009 after he fell out of a tree, while an eight year old boy was attacked in 2007.

Famously, an unfortunate Swiss conservationist named Rudolf Von Reding Biberegg stayed behind his tour group on a Komodo island hiking trip in 1974. He was never seen again, presumably devoured. A cross in his memory still stands on Komodo, bearing the epithet, “He loved Nature through his life.”

Scientists remain unclear on how exactly Komodo dragons kill, though the latest researchindicates that the deceptively lazy-looking creatures are actually venomous, and are thus able to subdue their prey by means of chemical warfare.

It was previously believed that the dragon’s bacteria-laden saliva did the job on large animal prey such as water buffalo and deer, while others continue to argue that the sheer trauma of a bite from a Komodo’s toothy jaws is enough to induce shock and eventual death in most prey.

The weighty lizards are also said to be able to run upwards of 11 miles per hour, a fact that may come as a shock to tourists observing the sleepy animals at the Rinca island visiting center, where they often take long naps near the cafeteria.

Article continues after advertisement

About 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons are thought to remain in the wild, confined to the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gila Montang, and a few stragglers on the western coast of Flores.