Fact Check: Does Video Show Komodo Dragon Devour a Whole Baby Deer?

Social media proved this week that skepticism runs deeper than politics or conspiracy theories, when an astonishing viral video of a Komodo dragon in the wild sparked disbelief.

Twitter watched what appeared to be raw footage of the extraordinary animal eating a fawn or small deer from snout to tail in just a few bites.

Such was the shock, that many began to question whether the beast or (perhaps more pertinently) the video was real. With doubts in mind, Newsweek sought to separate the facts from the fantasy.

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A Komodo dragon pictured searching the shore area of Komodo island for prey, December 2, 2010. A video purportedly showing this giant lizard devouring a baby deer went viral in August 2022, with skeptics wondering if it is real. ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images

The Claim

A video posted on Twitter, viewed nearly 13 million times, shows what appears to be a Komodo dragon eating a fawn or some species of small deer whole.

Many of the responses to this video were skeptical that a Komodo dragon could eat a whole deer, noting both the time it took to eat the animal and the size of the dragon itself.

The Facts

The video itself does feature some warning signs that are common with doctored footage. Although clear in what it depicts, the footage had lost a lot of fidelity through file compression, obscuring details which could help viewers determine its authenticity independently.

Some also noted odd background noises, like the sound of children. Again, unusual audio editing can be used to mask detail.

However, having looked at the footage and similar films online, we think this is the real deal.

Depending on whether they have had to hunt their kill, Komodo dragons can eat their prey whole in a few bites, just as seen on the video.

Their serrated teeth and powerful neck muscles are deadly while their venom glands, filled with toxins, cause fatal bleeding and induce shock. It has several movable joints which allow it to expand its jaw wide, and can eat up to 80% of its body weight in a single meal.

There are many other films online showing these predators eating deer, warthogs, snakes, turtles and other animals with little effort. It appears the prey in the film is no different.

There are dozens of videos compiling footage of Komodo dragons eating large prey on YouTube (content warning: this video is not for those with a sensitive disposition).

Moreover, they can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. Footage of Komodo dragons fighting each other, shared by the South China Morning Post, shows just how large they can become.

With this in mind, and as the deer in the video already appears to be dead, it seems entirely reasonable that this lizard could devour a fairly small animal in a few mouthfuls.

As to the authenticity of the film, while it has been compressed on Twitter, a full, higher quality version of the film is available on YouTube (although it's not clear whether the person who published the video filmed the footage).

Although there are voices of children in the background of the film, as there are in the short clip, it is possible that there are other people, perhaps including kids, standing near the cameraman.

It is also worth noting that Komodo dragons only live on five islands in Indonesia. According to the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, Komodos live on "a few Indonesian islands of the Lesser Sunda group, including Rintja, Padar and Flores, and of course the island of Komodo."

Although tourists pay to visit the Komodo National Park, people work and live alongside the animal too (along with some rare reports of attacks).

In the longer version of the video on YouTube, you can see down to a small fishing port with two islands or land masses just off the mainland.

There are also what appear to be stilt houses built on water, a common sight in South East Asian ports and coastal areas.

By searching a combination of these terms and descriptive features, Newsweek was able to further confirm the authenticity of the film, discovering it was most likely shot on the very-aptly, named village of... Komodo, in West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia (here).

According to this article by indonesia-tourism.com, the houses in the village use a "Panggung" design with a "hollow bottom... to prevent Komodo dragons and other wild animals from entering their house."

It adds "The locals are actually Komodo tribe. It is said they can communicate with the lizards. Aren't they great?"

The Ruling

Fact Check - True

True.

Though there are some questions about the short clip shared on Twitter, those are likely the result of file compression. Longer version of this video is available in higher quality.

Furthermore, Komodo dragons are widely know to consume prey like deer and their fawn, as can be seen in other gruesome online videos. Newsweek found strong evidence suggesting the original film was shot in the village of Komodo, near the Komodo National Park in Indonesia (the only country in the world where they can be found).

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's Fact Check team

True: The claim is verifiably correct. Primary source evidence proves the claim to be true.
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