A brave photographer fought off a wild Komodo dragon with just a stick after the animal tried to board his boat.
The stunning footage shows the huge heads and forked tongues of the dragons, which can weigh up to 200lbs, just above the surface of the water as they swim towards the boat.
The footage also shows just how dangerous Komodo dragons can be, as the predator’s powerful legs propel it through the water in pursuit of a meal.
The remarkable footage was captured off the coast of Rinca Island, Komodo National Park, Indonesia, from a rowboat by photographer Andy Lerner.
You can watch it here:
Andy, 60, from Los Angeles, said:
Being close to apex predators is always a thrill; whether it’s big cats, white sharks or these dragons.
It’s something most people don’t get a chance to do, so I love sharing it. I really like the prehistoric look that these animals have. I think we have a visceral reaction to something that connects us to dinosaurs. They really did look and move the way we think dinosaurs did. Maybe it’s the fear, but it also triggers a kind of wonder.
These particular dragons are used to being fed by tourist boats and are have been conditioned from that to check out the boats for a meal as they come in close.
This is of course unfortunate and is not natural behaviour for the dragons, as I would always prefer, but to safely take these photos it was my best choice. They are surprisingly fast and erratic swimmers, especially when hungry.
As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live. Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals.
The diet of big Komodo dragons mainly consists of Timor deer, though they also eat considerable amounts of carrion and also occasionally attack humans.
It has been claimed that they have a venomous bite, as there are two glands in the lower jaw which secrete several toxic proteins.
Andy took these shots with a wide-angle lens at water level but had to hang off the side of a small boat as it was too dangerous to get in the water with the huge beasts.
The dragons are of course very dangerous- the absolute best you can hope for if bitten by a dragon is to just lose a limb.
So, all of our plans started with the idea of keeping me alive. That meant I wouldn’t actually be diving with them. I needed to be protected. Under the supervision of my guide Foued, and two other experienced handlers, we came in close to the beach in a small Zodiac-like boat.
As the dragons came toward the boat, I would hang off the side, camera housing in the water, face behind it, as my guides tried to attract them to the front of my camera. They had long Y-shaped sticks to push them away if they became uncomfortably close, but really the whole concept required them to be uncomfortably close – not for the faint of heart.
Andy also added that the sticks used by the rangers are not harmful to the dragons, and are used to protect tourists.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.