Sunday, November 3, 2013

Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon

Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon
written by Marty Crump
2010 (Boyds Mills Press)
Source: Orange County Public Library

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One of the baddest animals on the planet is the Komodo dragon. It can weigh over 200 pounds and can grow to over 10 feet. In the wild, you will find Komodo dragons on five Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. Marty Crump documents the efforts, over the last several decades, to study Komodo dragons and save them from extinction. In 1969, Dr. Walter Auffenberg proposed to his family of five that they move to Komodo Island so they could study this unique animal. While most families at that time would have opted for catching an episode of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom instead, the Auffenbergs took up the task with enthusiam. With the help of his oldest son Kurt and aide Putra Sastrawan, Dr. Auffenberg trapped dragons and tagged them to study their roaming and eating habits. He learned about the deadly bacteria contained in the saliva of the dragon which infected animals who died from the bite. Since the dragons could smell dead animals from 7 miles out, they could find the carcass and have dinner. Fast forward over 20 years later and Terry Fredeking, a president of a biotechnology company, decides to study the Komodo dragon to find out if the dragon had a substance that protected them from their own bacteria. If such substance could be found, it could be used in antibiotics.

There are some surprising twists in this book including the playfulness of some Komodo dragons. Older students who are studying animals will enjoy reading the information collected by the author. The process used by these scientists is also a good example for students to follow as well. If you have a grade 3-5 reader who likes to read about carnivorous animals, this would be a good book to recommend.

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