FEEDING TIME: 15 year-old Johanna prepares for feeding time as a Water Dragon patiently waits.
FEEDING TIME: 15 year-old Johanna prepares for feeding time as a Water Dragon patiently waits. Daniel McKenzie

Teen discovers recipe for feeding dragons

EVERY second day, Murwillumbah teenager Joanna Smith makes the short walk from her home to a local park and sidles up to the edge of a walking track, overlooking the river.

Armed with a container of chopped apple, 15-year-old Joanna takes her place and starts throwing out the odd piece of apple as she patiently waits.

Popping out from the safe confines of the scrub that lines the water’s edge, a figure appears and slowly makes its way up towards Joanna, as it does, every second day.

That figure is a Physignathus lesueurii (or Eastern Water Dragon), and this has - like other water dragons that make the spot their home - become a feeding routine.

Joanna has always had an affinity with animals, and her connection with the water dragons is no exception.

Originally from Banora Point, Joanna used to walk by the water’s edge, and it was there she developed her curiosity with the fascinating reptiles.

“I always liked wildlife and when I was walking the dog, I used to feed the ducks,” Joanna said.

“But the ducks walked all over me so I thought ‘let’s try the dragons’.”

This fantastic shot was captured by Joanna, who loves to watch the water dragons as they feed along the Tweed River bank at Murwillumbah.
This fantastic shot was captured by Joanna, who loves to watch the water dragons as they feed along the Tweed River bank at Murwillumbah.

It’s a routine that has developed over time and living so close to the Tweed River in a southern section of Murwillumbah has afforded Joanna the opportunity of continuing her affinity with the curious creatures.

After a period of trial and error, she has gotten the feeding down to a fine art.

She tried cucumber and tomato, but settled on apples after finding the dragons probably didn’t like the seeds.

The dragons love the apple dinner and sometimes come in numbers, to enjoy a piece, or two.

It’s a ritual the teen carries out every second day and she knows how best to get the typically shy dragons to come right up close.

“Usually I just sit down and start throwing apple into the bush,” Joanna said.

“It’s best to be quiet and when they start coming up, I put some apple on the container lid and they come over.”

Joanna watching on quietly as a Water Dragon enjoys a piece of apple.
Joanna watching on quietly as a Water Dragon enjoys a piece of apple. Daniel McKenzie

Joanna regularly gets two or three to a feeding, depending on the size of the dragon leading the charge.

She has no plans of giving up on the routine any time soon, and while training a dragon is something most of us would only expect to see in a movie, the young nature enthusiast is doing it for real.



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