Huge lizards called Komodo dragons have lived for hundreds of thousands of years on a handful of islands in Indonesia. It’s their only home.

But over the past century, habitat loss and hunting have threatened the iconic species. And now climate change could drive it to extinction.

Alice Jones of the University of Adelaide in Australia says rising seas will likely flood many areas where the dragons live.

“They seem to be in these low-lying valleys, which are separated by tall mountains,” she says. “And they don’t really like to live on the steep slopes.”

The cold-blooded animals also need access to cool, shaded spots to help regulate their body temperature. But Jones says that as the region gets hotter and forest cover is lost, “Some of those types of habitats that are important for the lizards to be able to cool off in … are probably going to disappear or reduce in their area.”

Jones was part of a team that modeled how Komodo dragons will fare under a range of scenarios. They found that unless climate pollution is sharply reduced, the animals will likely lose over half of their habitat within the next 30 years.

So she says it’s critical to protect the limited area that remains – to help this ancient species survive the modern era.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.