Friday, February 8, 2013

Komodo Island, Indonesia 2/6/2013

Associated Press, Published: February 7, 2013 – “Washington Post”
2 park employees hospitalized after being attacked 
by giant Komodo dragon in eastern Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia — A park official says two people have been hospitalized after being attacked by a giant Komodo dragon that wandered into the office of a wildlife park in eastern Indonesia. An official at Komodo National Park, Heru Rudiharto, said Wednesday the 2-meter-long (6 ½ foot-long) Komodo dragon attacked a park ranger after walking into the office on Tuesday. It then attacked another park employee who came to help him. Both were badly bitten and were evacuated to a hospital on Bali Island. Endangered Komodo dragons can grow longer than 3 meters (10 feet). Fewer than 4,000 are believed to be alive. They are found in the wild primarily on the eastern Indonesian islands of Komodo, Padar and Rinca.

Close Up: Komodo Island, Indonesia 
“On the approach to Pulau Komodo, a tiny island, it is hard to imagine that this is the home of the fearsome dragons described by the late 19th-century explorers. The island lies between the islands of Sumbawa and Flores. At first look, steep hillsides slide down into topaz bays covered in glass-clear water, and white-sand beaches hem quiet shorelines. But this innocent-looking island is inhabited by 13-foot long, 220-pound ora, as known locally. Indonesia’s government established Komodo National Park to protect the dragon in 1980. It is also a world heritage site, as of 1992 and is now a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. Loh Ling is the main entry point to the island, with a single wooden dock and park office at the end of it, where a guides meet guests and escort them on a 1-2 hour walk along the paths in search of the dragons."
I had never heard of the dragons or Komodo Island and could not imagine what we could see in our short, three-hour stay. However, I was in for a surprise.
Our destination
This was exactly what one would imagine when thinking of a small, secluded tropical island. I couldn’t stop taking pictures as each view was more beautiful than the last. As we made our way to where we would drop anchor, I could not help but think of the Broadway musical, South Pacific or how much this must resemble the Cook Islands where my father was stationed during the war. We had been given the choice of a one or two hour tour. Because of the excessive heat and humidity on the island all tours were limited to one hour. We met our guide, were cautioned to stay on the path with the group, drink plenty of water and follow all instructions given to us. Not knowing that humans had been attacked the day before, we were still hesitant when we saw our guides only carrying forked sticks for our protection.

We walked into the beauty of the lush vegetation we had seen from the ship and found the dragons in an open space. We watched as these massive creatures walked, played, drank water and moved past us.

The dragons, according to modern science evolved from dinosaurs that lived in Asia some 130 million years ago. Indonesian cultures have known about them for centuries, and they have inspired many myths throughout Asia, but the rest of the world did not believe the legends until a Dutch Indies army officer brought back evidence in 1911. An Americana expedition to see them in 1926 is said to have inspired the movie, King Kong.

Today the 2,000 some dragons in the park area are the largest lizards on earth. As hunters, they use their long tails to knock down prey; serrated teeth to deliver poisons to disable bitten quarry; and razor-sharp craws to slash through a victim’s belly. They have sharp hearing, a keen sense of smell, are excellent swimmers, can eat up to six pounds of meat in a minute and run at speeds of 18 miles per hour. Attacks on humans are rare but not unknown. There was no question as to why they had been given the title, dragon. We walked the rest of the path to the point where we could go through the shopping stalls, manned by the local residents or return to the ship.

Back on board, we again admired the magnificent, unspoiled land that we agreed, gave no clue to the ferocious resident of the island and headed out to sea.

Headed back to sea

We received word that representatives from Regent would not be in Bali. It had been decided that we would receive a refund of 50% of the amount paid for the Sydney to Singapore segment, to be applied to a future Regent cruise. While what had happened was not the fault of the company, they realized that this segment had been affected by an unusual number of incidents and respected that passengers had not received value for the time and money invested in this trip. Maybe they were afraid that we had brought along a Komodo dragon to meet them when they arrived in Bali.

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