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Komodo Dragon FAQs
Komodo Dragon Fact Sheet
The Phoenix Zoo’s Komodo Dragons:
- Where did our animals come from? Both of our Komodo dragons were bred and hatched at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1994.
- Gaia (GUY-uh), is a female Komodo dragon that came to us from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas. She is 15 years old, weighs 74 pounds and is seven feet long. While living in Kansas, she never had a mate but still laid eggs. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) recommended that the Sedgwick County Zoo attempt to incubate two of the eggs. In the history of Komodo dragons in captivity, there have been two cases of parthenogenesis– a form of asexual reproduction – in English zoos. This sometimes occurs naturally in certain reptiles, where the eggs are never fertilized by a male, but instead duplicate the genetics of the mother. Due to the Komodo dragons’ endangered status, it was decided to incubate the eggs. Sure enough, Gaia’s eggs hatched and produced offspring, making her the first documented case of parthenogenesis in Komodo dragons in North America.
- Ivan, Gaia’s brother, is a male Komodo dragon that came to us from the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Florida. He is 15 years old, weighs 117 pounds and is eight feet long. Ivan is apparently a very ‘friendly’ dragon -- the zookeepers tell us he has been very easy and fun to work with since his arrival at the Phoenix Zoo.
- What do Komodo dragons eat in captivity? They feed on a variety of frozen and thawed mice, rats and an occasional fish as a treat.
- Will they be on exhibit together? Since Gaia and Ivan are related, they will not be allowed in the same enclosure to prevent breeding. However, the exhibit includes three separate enclosures so both dragons will be visible to the public. Also, Komodo dragons in the wild are normally solitary and, unless they are in a very large enclosure, it can be stressful to have animals together in captivity.
- Will the Phoenix Zoo produce baby Komodo dragons? As mentioned, since they are related, Gaia and Ivan will not breed. However, the exhibit and holding area is designed to accommodate breeding efforts. We will have to wait until the Species Survival Plan recommends a breeding plan and are hopeful to have offspring in the future.
- Will the Komodo dragons always be on exhibit? Komodo dragons cannot tolerate temperatures below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, so at times they may not be in their outdoor exhibits. We do have an indoor facility to allow at least one animal to be visible during colder weather.
- Can keepers go into the exhibit with Komodo dragons? We always work with dangerous animals like Komodo dragons using ‘protected contact’ – always maintaining a physical barrier between the animal and keepers.
Komodo Dragons in the Wild:
- Where do Komodo dragons come from? Komodo dragons live on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, and Gili Motang. Komodo National Park, founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo dragon, includes all of these islands except Flores. The total range of their natural habitat is less than 500 square miles.
- What kind of reptiles are Komodo dragons? They are a member of the monitor lizard family. Monitor lizards are found throughout Africa, Asia and Australia. Monitors range in size from approximately 12 inches to the giant lengths of the Komodo dragon.
- How big do Komodo dragons get? The Komodo dragon is the largest living species of lizard, growing to an average length of 7 to 10 feet and weighing from 100 to 200 pounds. Males are generally longer and heavier than females.
- How long do Komodo dragons live? Komodo dragons have not been studied extensively enough to know for sure, but it is thought that they live 30 years or longer.
- What do Komodo dragons eat? Komodo dragons are carnivores. Although they eat mostly carrion, or dead animal carcasses, they will also ambush live prey such as other reptiles (including smaller Komodo dragons), birds, bird eggs, small mammals, monkeys, wild boar, goats, deer, horses and water buffalo. Young dragons will eat insects, eggs, geckos and small mammals.
- Why do Komodo dragons get so big? Many reptiles that live on islands grow very large over time – such as the Galapagos tortoise, for example. Scientists think it is due to a lack of competition for food from other species, allowing the reptiles to become the dominant species on that island. Also, scientists believe the Komodo dragon may have evolved to its large size to feed on an extinct dwarf elephant that once lived on Flores.
- Is a Komodo dragon’s bite deadly? Saliva samples of wild dragons have been analyzed and were found to contain 57 different strains of bacteria, many of which can cause deadly infections. Animals in captivity do not seem to have the same type of bacteria and their bites do not cause infections as severe as bites from a wild animal.