Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Earth’s last ‘dragons’ under threat from climate change

Among the species that are endangered and under threat of extinction from the climate crisis is the famous Komodo dragon.

It was previously regarded as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which changed its status to “endangered” when it concluded its international congress last week.

The IUCN said the Komodo dragon is under increasing threat because of climate change. 

The Komodo dragon is found in Indonesia and only at the World Heritage-listed Komodo National Park and on Flores island. The monitor lizard can grow up to two metres and weigh 130kg and is the largest on Earth. 

Only two Komodo dragons are on the African continent, at the Pretoria Zoo in Gauteng. It is part of the monitor lizard family such as the rock monitor lizard found in South Africa. 

The updated red list has 138 374 listed species, of which 38 543 are threatened with extinction. 

The IUCN said: “Rising global temperature and subsequent sea levels are expected to reduce the Komodo dragon’s suitable habitat by at least 30% in the next 45 years.”

The subpopulation at Komodo National Park is stable and well protected but those outside protected areas on Flores are threatened by significant habitat loss caused by human activities, the IUCN added.

It is illegal to trade Komodo dragons under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) global treaty. Poaching remains a threat to the lizard’s population.

Conservationists have raised concern over the construction of a “Jurassic Park” type of tourist attraction on Rinca Island, which is part of the Komodo National Park, after a photograph, which went viral last year, showed a dragon crawling towards a construction vehicle. 

“The severity and extent of human actions impacting Komodo dragon populations, especially on Flores Island, are only just being realised,” says the co-author of the largest study to date, Deni Purwandana, who is also a coordinator of the Komodo Survival Programme.

“Having an insight into future impacts of climate change provides new possibilities to work with conservation agencies and local communities to find on-ground solutions that will limit climate and other threats to Komodo dragons and their habitats.”

Lead author Dr Alice Jones said current conservation strategies were not enough to avoid species decline in the face of climate change.

“Interventions such as establishing new reserves in areas that are predicted to sustain high-quality habitats in the future, despite global warming, could work to lessen the effects of climate change on Komodo dragons,” she said. 

Tunisia Phillips is an Adamela Trust climate and economic justice reporting fellow, funded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa

Vote for an informed choice

We’re dropping the paywall this week so that everyone can access all our stories for free, and get the information they need in the run up to the local government elections. For the latest updates and political analysis, sign up to our daily elections newsletter.

If our coverage helps inform your decision, cast your vote for an informed public and join our subscriber community. Right now, a full year’s access is just R510, half the usual cost. Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Tunicia Phillips
Tunicia Phillips is an investigative, award-winning journalist who has worked in broadcast for 10 years. Her beats span across crime, court politics, mining energy and social justice. She has recently returned to print at the M&G working under the Adamela Trust to specialise in climate change and environmental reporting.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Sisulu to appeal Umgeni board court ruling

New Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has already started moves to implement the court order and dissolve Sisulu’s interim board

High court dismisses Zuma’s plea for state prosecutor Billy Downer’s...

Judge Piet Koen set 11 April 2022 as the date for the arms deal trial to commence and if Zuma’s counsel signalled that they may seek leave to appeal, this is highly unlikely to force an umpteenth delay

Drop in registered voters, but will turnout continue to rise?

Voter turnout for local government elections has steadily risen since 2000, but the uptick could be stalled by Covid-19, much like registration has been

Police identify 300 high risk areas during local government elections

Police minister Bheki Cele said they have identified the KZN, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces as high risk areas deploying a high contingent of police and SANDF
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×