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Into the Dragon's Den 进入龙穴
A baby Komodo dragon held by a zookeeper
This baby Komodo dragon doesn't look too scary, yet...
What does the word dragon make you think of?

The chances are, if you are thinking of a Chinese dragon or 'long', you will think of a long serpent-like mythical creature which is benevolent, wise and lucky.

In a Western cultural context, what people call dragons are quite different; fearsome, fire-breathing creatures which look like dinosaurs, live in caves and guard piles of treasure.

But for three British divers who found themselves washed up on a remote Indonesian island last week, there was little time to worry about the symbolic significance of dragons.

Instead they found themselves having to fight off a real "man-eating" Komodo dragon.

Dehydrated and exhausted after treacherous currents had carried them for 12 hours through shark-infested waters, the divers' relief at reaching dry land must have been short-lived when they found themselves face-to-face with a Komodo dragon.

Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards in the world, can grow to over two metres long, and are very dangerous.

The animals have sharp teeth, long muscular tails and toxic saliva, which contains over 80 kinds of bacteria. Their prey, which includes large mammals such as goats, deer, and very occasionally humans, become infected with this lethal cocktail of bacteria and die within a couple of days of being bitten.

In this case, the frightened divers pelted the animal with sticks and rocks until it slithered away into the island. They then survived by eating shellfish until they were rescued.

So are these lizards, of which only 4,000 survive in the wild, as scary as they sound? Ian Stephen, who looks after two Komodos in London Zoo says the animals are actually very intelligent and love playing.

Just be careful which games you play with them.

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