Conservation biology and population management of the Komodo dragon

Italian-born Dr Claudio Ciofi began his career by studying conservation first at Florence University and then at the University of Kent at Canterbury. He speaks four languages and having spent five years studying its biology and conservation, is fast becoming a world authority on the Komodo dragon.

The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest monitor lizard – just a few thousand survive today on a handful of islands east of Bali. Although a protected species on four islands in Komodo National Park, habitat encroachment by humans on the island of Flores threatens its future existence – numbers are dwindling as humans compete with the lizards for their prey (deer and pig). Dragons outside protected reserve areas are seen as a threat to livestock and are treated as pests rather than assets.

Claudio’s project began as a population genetics study. However it has extended and now closely involves both the local communities from the dragons’ home ranges and students from Indonesian universities. He proposes to set up a home base from which scientists, students and local rangers can work closely with Government Departments and the indigenous community to protect the dragons and their habitat.

By demonstrating the benefits that tourism can bring to their community, Claudio hopes to encourage the villagers to accept the dragons as valuable components of their lives. Rather than live in conflict, the villagers should harness the dragon’s potential to lure tourists to the area, and live alongside them.
Claudio believes that conservation can only be truly sustainable and effective if it is owned by local people – and not just scientists and other conservation professionals.

Read more about Claudio’s work on the following webpages:

National Geographic

Scientific American

Zoological Society of London

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