by Staff Writers
Jakarta (AFP) Feb 6, 2013
A Komodo dragon in Indonesia has attacked two employees in one of the giant lizards' protected island habitats, leaving its victims hospitalised with serious injuries, an official said Wednesday.
One victim, a 50-year-old park ranger, was sitting at his desk at the Rinca island front office, where tourists usually check in, when the two-metre-long monitor snuck into his room Tuesday afternoon.
"The man panicked when he saw the Komodo and tried to escape by jumping on a chair, but the Komodo quickly grabbed and bit one of his legs," Komodo National Park official Heru Rudiharto told AFP.
Rudiharto said the ranger was the victim of a similar Komodo attack in 2009 and was still traumatised.
Another employee, aged 35, heard the ranger scream and quickly ran to his aid, but the lizard also attacked him, taking a bite at his leg.
Both are in good condition after being given stitches at a health clinic, Rudiharto said, but they are being monitored in hospital to ensure an infection does not develop.
Until recently, Komodos were believed to hunt with a "bite and wait" strategy using toxic bacteria in their saliva to weaken or kill their prey, before descending in numbers to feast.
But recent research found that the dragons' jaws are armed with highly sophisticated poison glands that can cause paralysis, spasms and shock through haemorrhaging.
They are native to several Indonesian islands and are considered a vulnerable species, with only a few thousand left in the world. Their normal diet consists of large mammals, reptiles and birds.
A Komodo in October attacked a woman collecting grass for animal feed at the park, Rudiharto said. She has recovered from a serious leg injury.
The world's largest monitor lizard, Komodos can grow up to three metres (10 feet) and typically weigh to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Kenya suspends top wildlife officials in poaching probe
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said in a statement that the officials were ordered "to take leave to facilitate internal investigations into the wildlife security situation".
Poaching has spiked recently in East Africa, with whole herds of elephants massacred for their ivory.
"The suspensions had to be done to pave way for investigations... we are waiting for the final report," KWS spokesman Paul Mbugua told AFP.
He stressed that no charges have been brought against the officials, Peter Leitoro, the deputy director of security, and Benjamin Kavu, deputy director of wildlife and community.
Last month officials in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa seized more than two tonnes of ivory, which had reportedly come from Tanzania and was destined for Indonesia.
Last year poachers killed at least 360 elephants in Kenya, up from 289 in 2011, according to official figures.
At least 40 poachers were killed last year as rangers battled the raiders.
The illegal ivory trade is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used to make ornaments and in traditional medicine.
Trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dwindled from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.
Africa is now home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching as well as a rising human population that is causing habitat loss.
Darwin Today At TerraDaily.com
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