Does the video show the Komodo dragon devouring a whole baby deer?
Social media proved this week that skepticism runs deeper than politics or conspiracy theories, when a stunning 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 a few bites.
Such was the shock that many began to wonder if the beast or (perhaps more pertinently) the video was real. With doubts in mind, Newsweek sought to separate fact from fantasy.
A video posted to Twitter, viewed nearly 13 million times, shows what appears to be a Komodo dragon eating a whole fawn or some species of small deer.
Many responses to this video were skeptical that a Komodo dragon could eat an entire deer, noting both the time it took to eat the animal and the size of the dragon itself.
The video itself presents common warning signs of doctored images. While clear in what it depicts, the footage had lost a great deal of fidelity due to file compression, obscuring details that could help viewers independently determine its authenticity.
Some also noted strange background noises, like the sound of children. Again, unusual audio editing can be used to hide details.
However, after looking at the pictures and similar movies online, we think this is the real deal.
Depending on whether or not they had to hunt their prey, Komodo dragons can eat their entire prey in a few bites, as seen in the video.
Their serrated teeth and powerful neck muscles are deadly while their venom glands, filled with toxins, cause deadly bleeding and shock. He has several movable joints that allow him to expand his jaw, and can eat up to 80% of their body weight in one meal.
There are plenty of other movies online showing these predators eating deer, warthogs, snakes, turtles, and other animals effortlessly. It seems the prey in the film is no different.
There are dozens of videos compiling images of Komodo dragons eating large prey on YouTube (content warning: this video is not intended for sensitive people).
Additionally, they can be up to 10 feet long and weigh over 300 pounds. Images of Komodo dragons fighting, shared by the South China Morning Postshows how big they can get.
With that in mind, and since the deer in the video looks already dead, it seems only reasonable that this lizard could devour a fairly small animal in a few bites.
As for the film’s authenticity, although it was zipped on Twitter, a full, higher-quality version of the film is available on YouTube (although it’s unclear if the person who posted the video filmed images).
Although there are children’s voices in the background of the film, as is the case in the short clip, it is possible that there are other people, possibly children, standing nearby of the cameraman.
It should also be noted that Komodo dragons only live on five islands in Indonesia. According to National Zoo and Smithsonian Institute of Conservation Biology, The Komodos live on “a few Indonesian islands in the Lesser Sunda group, including Rintja, Padar and Flores, and of course Komodo Island”.
Although tourists pay to visit Komodo National Park, people also work and live alongside the animal (as well as some rare reports of attacks).
In the long version of the video on YouTube, you can see a small fishing port with two islands or land masses right next to the mainland.
There are also what appear to be stilt houses built over water, a common sight in ports and coastal areas of Southeast Asia.
By looking for a combination of these descriptive terms and characteristics, Newsweek was able to further confirm the authenticity of the film, finding that it was most likely shot in the aptly named village of…Komodo, in West Manggarai Regency, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia (here).
According to this article per indonesia-tourism.com, the houses in the village use a “Panggung” design with a “hollow bottom…to keep Komodo dragons and other wild animals out of their house.”
He adds “The locals are actually from the Komodo tribe. They are said to be able to communicate with lizards. Aren’t they awesome?”
While there are a few questions about the short clip shared on Twitter, these are likely the result of file compression. A longer version of this video is available in higher quality.
Additionally, Komodo dragons are widely known to consume prey like deer and their fawn as seen in other gruesome online videos. Newsweek found strong evidence to suggest that the original film was shot in the village of Komodo, near Komodo National Park in Indonesia (the only country in the world where they can be found).
FACT CHECK BY Newsweek’s Fact Checking Team