Mysterious predator dubbed “Goat Sucker” causes panic in Iraq

Mysterious predator dubbed “Goat Sucker” causes panic in Iraq
Farmers are panicked across the Kurdistan area in Iraq as more than 21 sheep have been eaten by the mystery animal. / bne IntelliNews
By bne Gulf bureau April 21, 2024

A mysterious creature resembling a lizard and locally dubbed as "Goat Sucker" has caused a stir in the village of Sarsoola, eastern Dohuk, Iraq, after allegedly preying on 21 sheep, 964 Media reported on April 21.

The sighting, captured on video by a local shepherd, has prompted an urgent response from regional forest police after scores of livestock had been killed or gone missing.

The shepherd, who has been grazing livestock in the region for over a decade, claimed to have seen the creature for the second time in five years. The first encounter was with a much smaller version of the animal. "This time, it was astonishingly large and dangerous," he recounted. Despite attempts to capture the beast using dogs, it proved too swift and elusive.

Following the incident's media coverage, KRG Brigadier Sarbaz Abdullah, head of the Dohuk Forest Police, stated that his team was not aware of the creature until recently.

"We are now dispatching teams to the Bajil area to conduct a thorough investigation into this matter. If the claims are validated, measures will be taken to relocate the creature," Abdullah explained.

The creature is thought to be a Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), known regionally as "Goat Sucker" and sometimes referred to as "Goat Rat" in other areas.

The Komodo dragon, also known as the Komodo monitor, belongs to the Varanidae family of monitor lizards and is native to the Indonesian islands of Komodo, among others. It is the largest existing lizard species, capable of growing up to 3 meters long and weighing around 70 kilograms.

As apex predators, Komodo dragons have a venomous bite and dominate their ecosystems. They primarily hunt by ambushing their prey, which includes invertebrates, birds, and mammals. Younger dragons, vulnerable to predation including from cannibalistic adults, typically reside in trees for safety.

These lizards mature at about 8 to 9 years of age and can live up to 30 years. Western scientists first documented Komodo dragons in 1910, and their impressive size and formidable nature have made them popular in zoos worldwide.

Komodo dragons are currently classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, largely due to habitat contraction from human activities and potential impacts of climate change. They are protected under Indonesian law, and in 1980, Komodo National Park was established to support conservation efforts.

In 1914, a Russian herpetologist named P.V. Nesterov collected a specimen that was believed to be a new Varanus species in the Western and Southwestern margin of the Zagros Mountain range along the Iraqi/Iranian border. He intended to include them in his manuscript about the reptiles of Kurdistan. However, due to the outbreak of World War I and the Russian Revolution of 1917, he was not able to finish his work. The lizards are known to inhabit the area of Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran, and little is known about them beyond this range.